by Lisa McRitchie on 12/20/11 at 03:30 AM ET
On Monday night, Team Canada played Team Finland at the Calgary Saddledome in a preliminary IIHF World Juniors tournament game. This was the first chance for most Canadian hockey fans to have a look at the players that will be playing for our country in this holiday tournament. Despite Oilers’ prospect goaltender Tyler Bunz being a final cut from the team, there is still a lot of potential on this roster. I don’t think that it is just my Oilers’ preference that makes me concerned about goaltending this year, but it weighs in more than it should.
In net was Mark Visentin, one of the four players returning from last year’s team. Visentin shared the goaltending position with Oilers’ prospect and recent Oklahoma City Barons call-up Olivier Roy. Neither player quite found consistency and Canada would take Silver in the tournament. This year, Visentin looks to build on last year and walk away with a gold medal instead.
Although Jonathan Huberdeau is still injured, he has been named to the roster. Huberdeau has not practiced with Team Canada at all, and was in the press box for this game. It is expected that he will be healthy enough to play in the tournament that starts Boxing Day, December 26th with another game of Finland versus Canada but this one will be played in Edmonton, and will definitely count.
Joining Huberdeau in the pressbox was Quinton Howden who is suffering from concussion symptoms. This meant that Team Canada played with only 11 forwards.
The Fins were first on the score sheet when Teemu Pulkkinen easily scored on the power play. The opening goal seemed to be what it took to make Visentin look much more alert for the rest of the game.
The second period saw goals from Boone Jenner and Mark Stone for Team Canada. Mark Stone had been especially impressive at the summer camp; it was no surprise that he should find the back of the net his first game in.
In the final frame, Brendan Gallagher would score to give Canada a 3-1 victory over Finland and Canadian hockey fans would feel some relief.
The popularity of the World Juniors tournament has been growing, and interest is especially high this year because the tournament will be hosted in Canada and because Canada lost the gold medal game last year. For most Canadians that loss came as a shock and started many discussions on Canada being too complacent. Many Canadian hockey fans were also reminded that there is competition in the hockey world and so this year, Team Canada has something to prove.
This roster is different from last year. Overall, the team is smaller and it appears as though head coach Don Hay is placing more importance on defence. There is no shortage of talent however, several high profile drafted players and only two draft eligible players make up the roster. What that means of course is that this is not necessarily a draft preview, but rather a look at how NHL drafted prospects are developing.
Devante Smith-Pelly, drafted by the Anaheim ducks will be a difference maker for Team Canada. In this game alone, Smith-Pelly had 10 hits. He will be a physical presence for the team.
Team Finland had several goaltenders to choose from for their roster this year. Although the goaltending duo of Sami Aittokallio and Christopher Gibson allowed a combined total of 3 goals, Canada had several chances and I would expect Finland to allow few goals per game through the tournament.
Team Canada will not play again until Thursday when they take on Switzerland in Red Deer. Maybe by that game, the team will have named their team captain, but maybe it will remain a surprise until the tournament begins.
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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.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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