by Lisa McRitchie on 01/04/12 at 06:00 AM ET
Talk about your let downs. With the eye of the nation on Calgary and Team Canada, the team suffered their most ill timed and disappointing loss in years. So much so that after the first period when the team was down by two, tickets for the Sweden vs Russia gold medal game could be found on online classified ads. Now that Canada is officially playing for bronze, the number of tickets available is alarming.
You have to give a lot of credit to Team Russia. Russia played well through the preliminary round and goaltender Andrei Vasilevski played his way to the top of the rankings. And of course, Russia has so much more than just a talented goaltender.
Russian captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov and best player of the game, earned a hat-trick while 2012 draft eligible Nail Yakapov exhibited his skating and vision on the ice.
“We beat Canada. Russia’s better than Canada.” Nail Yakapov exclaimed. On Monday night, it was Yakapov who claimed that Russia was the best team in the tournament. Russia’s confidence has gotten them this far, it may spur them to victory one more time.
Scott Wedgewood started for Team Canada, but could not finish. As Canada was down 4-1, Wedgewood was bowled over Yevgeni Khokhlachev following Kuznetsov’s third goal. Wedgewood’s replacement was Mark Visentin, the goaltender for Canada in last year’s gold medal win by Russia.
Canada may have had the home crowd advantage, but it was Russia who had the man advantage for a large portion of the game. As always, there were questions over some penalty calls and whether or not there was some embellishment on selling penalties but in the end Canada found themselves killing penalty after penalty in the second period. The team was assessed a total of 49 minutes in the second period alone.
Despite the penalties, Canada managed to outshoot their opponents, 56-24. It has to be said once again that Andrei Vasilevski is one talented goaltender and after this tournament may be one of the more memorable goaltenders at the 2012 NHL entry draft.
Russia’s head coach Valeri Bragin speaking through a translator spoke highly of Team Canada’s skill and competitiveness. Bragin thinks that Canada’s short comings are due to the extra time off, and that another game playing as a team may have done Canada a lot of good.
“I think that Canada is the best team in the tournament so far. I think that the lack of playing practice because they had some days off made some damage for Team Canada while we have top game.”
“In the end we had the victory and we were very happy with the way that our guys played. We want to thank all of you.”
For Coach Don Hay, the media address was more complicated. “When you get down 6-1 that’s a long hole to come [back from]. We had to be better earlier and we weren’t.”
For Wedgewood, the loss was especially difficult, “It’s not what you came here for and it’s not what you wanted.” And although his team had an impressive come back in the third period “It’s a full game, you can’t win in just a period.” In the previous two periods, Wedgewood believes “I could have stopped all four of those if I had played properly.”
Canada doesn’t get to go home yet, there is still the bronze medal to be played for. Although the bronze was not the goal for the team, the bronze medal is the next challenge. As Coach Don Hay stated “I think that every game you play is worth playing for, so it’s an honour to win a medal when you’re at this competition no matter what medal it is. And our guys respect the fans and respect each other and I expect them to play hard for each other.”
The third period comeback from Team Canada was of course nothing short of amazing to the nearly 20, 000 in attendance but four goals in one period were not enough. Five would have made things more interesting, but four is what was accomplished.
Although head coach Don Hay stated earlier in the day, “This isn’t about redemption,” perhaps next year it will be. This is the second consecutive year that a Canadian loss to the Russians has meant so much.
Russia will play Sweden for the gold medal Thursday night, while Thursday afternoon, Canada will battle Finland.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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