Month: September 2016 (page 2 of 9)

Europe’s underdogs status against Canada is an understatement

By Chris Johnston – Sportsnet

As Team Canada rolls towards the World Cup of Hockey final, it doesn’t see the two-tone sweater and unusual crest of its opponent.

There is no real thought given to the fact it will be trying to take down a collection of eight disparate nations.

No, what the Canadians see when they look at Team Europe is a team that has Anze Kopitar playing big minutes as a first-line centre and Roman Josi driving its top defence pairing. A team with Jaroslav Halak looking sharp in goal.

A team with a lot of really good NHL players who are worthy of their respect.

“They’re a great story, and shame on us if we don’t take them serious for what they’ve done to this point,” said GM Doug Armstrong.

The best-of-three final that gets underway at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night will be described as “David vs. Goliath.”

Looking at the rosters, the history and the situation, that may even be an understatement.

However, the biggest reason to expect this final to be a two games and done affair is the fact Goliath is wearing glasses. There is a clear-eyed approach to the way Team Canada is embracing this challenge that suggests it’s unlikely to get caught off-guard once the puck drops.

“Well I just think when you put all of those countries together there’s lots of good players there,” said coach Mike Babcock. “I like their back end, I like their goaltending. I think they’ve done a really good job through the middle of the rink with their team there. They’ve got a good looking team.

“So that’s why you play these games is all the experts can predict whatever they want. You’ve got to play the games and decide.”

It may be a simple truth, but it often gets forgotten until something surprising inevitably happens at a best-on-best tournament.

Something like Team Europe putting Team USA on the ropes immediately by winning the opening game. Or something like it following that up with a preliminary round victory over the Czech Republic and a 3-2 overtime win against Sweden in the semifinals where it played like every bit the equal of the world’s No. 2 hockey nation.

They have come further than even they could have imagined after being outscored 9-1 by Team North America over the first four periods of pre-tournament play.

Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger had said earlier in the event that “it’ll take a magical day, it’ll take a world-class goaltending performance, it’ll take something very, very special” for anyone to beat Canada here.

His group is the only one still with a chance.

“There’s opportunity there for us that we’re going to try and find,” said Krueger. “We want to make it difficult for Canada to win the World Cup.”

If nothing else, he will have an unusual amount of insight into the challenge after serving on Team Canada’s coaching staff at the Sochi Olympics. Krueger’s primary tasks there were helping adapt the game to the big ice from a tactical standpoint while preparing the group for how its European opponents would chase an upset.

It has been a decade since Team Canada truly suffered one of those.

Of course, Krueger was there as coach of the Swiss team that delivered the 2-0 victory against the Canadians in the preliminary round of the Turin Olympics.

His Team Europe group has far more skill and experience than Switzerland ever did, and we should expect to see the absolute best from Kopitar, Mats Zuccarello, Tomas Tatar and Marian Hossa in the only international games of this calibre they’ll likely ever get to play.

Their national teams aren’t at a level to threaten the big dogs and the plan from the beginning was to use Team Europe as a one-and-done concept, with a qualifying system implemented before the next World Cup in 2020.

Krueger has seized on the fact his group has no past and no future. They might as well live in the moment because they only have two or three games left against Team Canada.

“I think the better we do, the lower the chances might be that Team Europe gets invited back,” said Krueger, with a laugh. “That’s a joke. But it’s the opportunity in this that we’ve tapped into.”

In the final, they’ll face obvious challenges with Team Canada’s ridiculous forward depth and world-class goaltending, but the fact they’re being taken seriously will hurt too.

The gameplan will no doubt be centred around trying to play a smart, patient, frustrating style. The only problem is Team Canada doesn’t seem prone to those weaknesses.

“Frustration’s a waste of time so let’s put that aside,” said Babcock. “They’re going to make you work and earn your way. I don’t think anybody gets to a final in anything worth winning and doesn’t expect to have to work to get that done.

“We’ll try to be as workmanlike as we possibly can and go about our business.”

The business of winning.

Riveters Defeat Team Russia 2-1

By National Women’s Hockey League

The New York Riveters hit the ice at their new home Barnabas Health Hockey House on Sunday night for their first pre-season game against Team Russia. After a strong and physical game the Riveters came out on top 2-1.

Sojung Shin, the Riveters’ newest goalie addition from South Korea, quickly adjusted in net, stopping 19 of the 20 shots she faced.

Team Russia was quick and physical, but with physicality from defenders like Kaleigh Fratkin and Milica McMillen and speed in front from Tatiana Rafter and Taylor Holze, the Riveters were able to counteract their strengths.

“Definitely, I am a physical player,” Fratkin noted after the game, “it actually gets you into the game a little more. When someone threw a body on me in my first couple shifts, I was like ‘Oh wow, I’m actually playing hockey,’ you’re not playing pond hockey out there.”

Fratkin, McMillen, and Michelle Picard were standout defensemen on the ice. They were firm on the blue line, physical and in control in all aspects. This, combined with Shin’s standout performance, made scoring tough for Team Russia.

The first goal in the game came early in the first period from rookie Miye D’Oench, assisted by Rebecca Russo. It was a quick and meaningful goal that got the Riveters ahead, not only on the scoreboard, but helped shake the nerves away.

These nerves were no match for Russo, who was all grins after her first NWHL assist, “I think there are always first game jitters. I’m always nervous before any game but once I step foot on the ice for warm ups or the first drop of that puck— the nerves go away.”

The second goal came courtesy of Amanda Kessel with helpers from Fratkin and Bray Ketchum. The beginning of the 3rd had the Riveters up 2-0 and Team Russia was itching for a goal.

Team Russia got their lone goal from former Connecticut Whale forward, Smolentseva Ekaterina.

“The girls did a great job,” Riveters GM and head coach Chad Wiseman said after the game, “We have a great group right now with a lot of talent, a lot of puck-moving defensemen, a lot of speed up front, but they’ve got to come together as a single unit.”

Pride Take Down Team Russia

By Daniel Tamer – National Women’s Hockey League

Coming off a narrow victory against Boston College, the Boston Pride took on the Russian Women’s National Team in a pre-season matchup at Warrior Ice Arena Saturday night.

Both teams came out with a nervous energy and were unable to generate much zone time for the first few minutes of the game. 

It wasn’t until 10:49 of the first period when a deke and finish from Meghan Duggan in the slot put the Pride up 1-0.

A crosschecking penalty committed by Kacey Bellamy at 16:31 of the first would allow Team Russia to produce some scoring opportunities. Russia’s power play led to a controversial goal on a rebound, scored by former Connecticut Whale forward Ekaterina Smolentseva, knotting the game at one going into the second.

On an early 2-on-1 rush in the second period, Brianna Decker scored on a pass from Zoe Hickel. Russia would take a penalty right after, leading to another Pride goal scored by Alex Carpenter less than a minute later to put them up 3-1 early in the second.

Halfway through the second, Brittany Ott replaced Lauren Slebodnick in net for the Pride. A few minutes later, a turnover at the blue line by Kacey Bellamy led to a breakaway for Fanuza Katirova, but she was hooked and awarded a penalty shot. Katirova’s backhand attempt was denied by Ott and went wide, as she was unable to make the Pride pay for their mistake.

Just forty seconds into the third a loose puck squirted out to the point and Decker buried her second goal of the game, making it 4-1.

Later on in the period, Kacey Bellamy took her second penalty of the game but upon returning to the action, she was able to pick up the puck on an offensive rush and put one past the Team Russia goaltender to put Boston up 5-1. Both goalies stood tall for the remainder of the period, and when the clock hit triple zeros, the final score was 5-1 in favor of the Pride.

Team Europe edges Sweden in OT, advances to World Cup final


Tomas Tatar scored twice, including the overtime winner, as Team Europe stunned Sweden with a 3-2 victory in the semifinal at the World Cup of Hockey on Sunday.

Tatar kicked the puck to his skate and put a shot past a sprawling Henrik Lundqvist at 3:43 of the extra period. It was ruled a good goal after a quick video review, earning Europe a berth in the best-of-three final against Canada beginning on Tuesday.

Marian Gaborik had the other goal for Europe (3-1-0) while Jaroslav Halak made 37 saves.

It was not the first time Team Europe has stunned an opponent at the best-on-best tournament. The team, made up of players from eight separate countries, opened the World Cup of Hockey with a surprising 3-0 win over the Americans.

Erik Karlsson and Nicklas Backstrom responded for Sweden (2-0-2) while Lundqvist stopped 28 shots.

Karlsson’s point shot, which appeared to redirect off of European defenceman Roman Josi, beat a screened Halak with 4:32 remaining in the third to tie the game 2-2 and force overtime.

Tatar gave Europe its first lead of the afternoon 12 seconds into the third period, picking up his own rebound, which Lundqvist mishandled, and beating the New York Rangers goaltender for his first of the tournament.

Thomas Vanek nearly made it 3-1 midway through the third after his shot got past Lundqvist, but Anton Stralman was there to clear the puck before it crossed the goal line.

The two teams were tied 1-1 after 40 minutes.

Backstrom opened the scoring, putting home the rebound off of Stralman’s shot for his second of the tournament at 2:31 of the second.

Team Europe challenged that Patric Hornqvist was interfering with Halak prior to the puck going in, but after a review, it was ruled a good goal.

Gaborik tied it 1-1 with 3:33 remaining in the second, redirecting a Christian Ehrhoff feed between the legs of Lundqvist for his second goal of the tournament.

Hornqvist had an excellent chance to open the scoring 15 seconds in, but was denied by the left toe of Halak.

Anze Kopitar had the best chance of the opening period for Europe. With 49 seconds remaining, Kopitar’s shot hit Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman and nearly got under the arm of Lundqvist, who got just enough of the shot to make the save.



Q & A With Karim Kerbouche

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

From August  9, 2014

We had the great pleasure of interviewing Karim Kerbouche who had a major impact in starting the Algerian Ice Hockey Association.

You are widely considered starting the Algeria Ice Hockey Association can you tell us a little more about yourself?

I’m born in London, UK, with Algerian background. I started playing ice hockey in London at around aged 13, playing junior and then senior in the English national league. I’ve also studied sports management in college.

What is the future of ice hockey in Algeria?

Progress is slow unfortunately, it’s not easy to introduce a new sport to Algeria, the problem is mainly with the government, they’re slightly behind the times when it comes to supporting new sports. We do however have quite a lot of public support, almost 100,000 likes on our facebook page, and with the future projects with Morocco and Tunisia I feel Algerian hockey has a bright future.

There is no ice rinks in Algeria, are there any future plans in build one?

There is currently one ice rink in Algeria which opened this year, it’s small, I believe 300 meters squared, in Algeria’s 2nd city Oran.
There is talk of full size rinks but nothing concrete, with the growing wealth in Algeria and people seeking more leisure activities I very much expect to see a full size ice rink in the next couple of years.

If and when there is an ice rink in the country do you think a league can be form?

There will be a league, after discussion with Morocco and Tunisia, and advice from the IIHF, the aim will be to have a cross country North African league, I feel it’s very important for us to develop both our senior and junior hockey together, I think it’s the only way you’ll see any of us compete in a world championship one day.

Ice hockey is growing in Africa countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have started to play the game and South Africa have been playing for a long time is there an African Cup in the future?

I think so, we all want it, we even discussed it a couple of weeks ago, the problem has always been the funding, it’s very expensive for us and Morocco and Tunisia to get to South Africa, ideally we’d need a big sponsor or IIHF assistance. Expect to see a North African ‘Maghreb cup’ in the near future though.

Can you please tell us what is the Maghreb Cup?

The Maghreb Cup will be a tournament involving the three North African countries of the Maghreb region, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. We hope to have the first one in 2015.

Algeria has a very small synthetic ice rinks that are suitable for children to learn the basics. Have you or anyone else started children hockey programs in the country?

We haven’t yet and that’s something that really disappoints me. For me this is biggest priority now.

Does the Algeria Ice Hockey Association have plans to become IIHF member in the near future?

Definitely, hopefully we can apply in 2015

Outside from yourself who are the movers and shakers of Algerian ice hockey?

Our captain Harond Litim, well established in French hockey, was a big hit on a French comedian, remi gaillard, prank video. He has his finger in all sorts of pies, MMA, water sports, rap videos. He also puts a lot of work into Algerian hockey.
We have Rouen junior elite coach Nordine Mahdidi, he played with us initially and will now be working on coaching with us.

Many Algerian players play aboard, what is the level of play for Algerian players and who would you say is the best player today?

We have some very good players, mostly in France.Benchabane who plays in ligue Magnus is probably the top player,Chougui who just signed for asniere is a very good player, our captain Litim of course, and two former ligue Magnus players Fahas and Sadani. There’s a few young guys playing junior in France and Canada who we hope to come through.

Algerian National Team have not played for sometime now are there and plans to play any games in 2014-15?

There will be games in 2015, I’m pretty confident the North African tournament will happen, I’d like to add a couple more fixtures on top as well.

You scored the first ever goal for the Algerian national team during the 2008 Arab Cup against Morocco, what was the feeling like?

It was a dream come true for me, firstly to play for Algeria then to actually score, it was amazing, still the highlight in my hockey life.

What is your favorite NHL team?

I don’t follow the NHL much anymore, when I was a kid I always liked Anaheim, now I just like to watch the teams who play a tough physical style.

Who is your favorite player past or present?

When I was younger I liked Paul Kariya, I also liked the enforcers. I follow them more than the skilled guys. These days, I like how Chicago guys Kane and Toews play, I like Kadri. It’s good to see an Arab in the NHL, and I guess St. Louis enforcer Reeves.

What is the one thing about hockey that you like the best?

I like the physical side of ice hockey. I’m a big football (soccer) fan but I always felt it was missing the physical side of things. I think hockey has a good mix of skill and toughness.

Thank You for you time and we wish you the best of luck going forward.
Thank you very much, we appreciate all the support we can get.


Corey Perry has rare chance to join Niedermayer in hockey history

canada flag

By Ken Campbell – The Hockey News

In case you’re wondering, Corey Perry keeps all his championship rings and gold medals locked in a safety deposit box. It must be a really, really big one. “I don’t travel with them,” Perry deadpanned as Team Canada prepared for its semifinal game against Russia in the World Cup of Hockey. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with them. We’ll figure something out when I’m done playing.”

Perry has not only a chance to add another bauble to his collection, but he also has an opportunity to join a miniscule group of players when it comes to winning championships. Miniscule, as in one. In all of the history of the game, only Scott Niedermayer has won a Stanley Cup, Olympic gold medal, World Championship, World Junior Championship, Memorial Cup and Canada/World Cup title. Perry can join him if Team Canada can win three more games in the tournament. Perhaps he and Niedermayer, a former teammate with the Anaheim Ducks and a special assignment coach with the Ducks, can compare their hardware when he returns to Anaheim.

Like Niedermayer, winning follows Perry around. And like Niedermayer, Perry has been a huge part of the championship teams on which he’s played. When asked if there are any similarities between the two, Perry’s Anaheim teammate Ryan Getzlaf cracked, “Yeah, they skate the same.”

He was joking. Niedermayer is one of the smoothest, most effortless and efficient skaters the game has ever seen. Perry, on the other hand, skates as though he’s on a personal mission to do as much damage to the ice as possible. But the results are undeniable. It all started for Perry in 2005 when he barely made Canada’s WJC team during the NHL lockout and scored seven points to help Canada win the title. Later that season, after scoring 130 points for the London Knights, he added another 38 in 18 playoff games to lead the Knights to the Memorial Cup. Two years later he contributed to the only Stanley Cup he has won in his career. He then won gold medals with Canada both in Vancouver in 2010 and in Sochi in 2014 before becoming the 27th member of the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and World Championship) when Canada won the world title last spring.

Perry is well aware that he’s on the cusp of history. Not surprisingly, he hasn’t given it a lot of thought. “Obviously, I’ve heard about it and I kind of know what’s at stake,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s just a matter of going out and playing hockey. I don’t worry about it. You don’t know if it could ever happen again, but I just go out and let the chips fall. It would be a tremendous honor for sure and it speaks volumes of the teams that I played for and guys I played with.”

It also speaks volumes of his contribution to those teams. Playing on what is essentially the third line on the left side of Jonathan Toews and Logan Couture, Perry has a goal in the tournament, mostly because he hasn’t been getting many looks. He has just six shots in the tournament, while Toews has 10 and leads Canada in scoring with three goals and an assist. The best thing about this for Perry is that he was not initially part of the group that was named to play in the World Cup and was added to the team when Jeff Carter had to pull out with an injury. But Hockey Canada knows what Perry is all about and appreciates how he has always answered the call for his country, so it was a pretty easy decision for both sides.

“The times I went (to the World Championship in 2010, 2012 and 2016), the season kind of ended abruptly and I wasn’t planning on sitting back and relaxing for another month or so,” Perry said. “It’s a great time and anytime you get a call, if you can go, I go and I want to be a part of that team.”

What Perry is on the cusp of accomplishing is something rather special. Sidney Crosby, who has won everything but a Memorial Cup, lost to Perry’s Knights in the final in 2005. Wayne Gretzky hasn’t done it. Nor has Mario Lemieux, nor Team Canada teammates Toews or Patrice Bergeron. They’ve all come close, but none of them has a safety deposit box with quite as much variety as Perry.

“It’s important to have winners, period,” said Team Canada coach Mike Babcock. “If you look at our group, we have a lot of determined people that have been in a lot of good situations and have learned how to win and expect to win. And in the big moments in your life, the best of the best deliver and they think they’re going to deliver. They don’t know why, but in their heart and in their mind they know they’re going to do it.”

Brad Marchand scores pair as Canada advances to World Cup final


Canada exploded for three third-period goals, pushing Russia aside for a spot in the World Cup of Hockey final with a 5-3 victory on Saturday night.

Sergei Bobrovsky held the Canadians in check over the first 40 minutes, but shots by Brad Marchand, Corey Perry and John Tavares eluded his grasp over a 10-minute span in the third.

Marchand also scored the game-tying goal late in the second after Canada fell behind 2-1. Sidney Crosby set up a pair and scored one himself.

Carey Price made 31 saves for Canada, which will face either Europe or Sweden in a best-of-three final that begins Tuesday night.

Dominant in the preliminary round, the Canadians were far and away the better team again on Saturday and remain the tournament’s heavy favourites. They outshot Russia 47-34, sustaining control of the puck for long, heavy stints in the offensive zone. Only Bobrovsky kept it close for the first two periods.

Crosby did it all to open the scoring for Canada less than 10 minutes into the opening frame.

Aggressively attacking Russia’s defence on the forecheck, the Canadian captain stripped Dmitry Kulikov of the puck just feet from the crease. A couple dekes later and Crosby stuffed a backhand past an over-committed Bobrovsky.

If appearing a touch tight early, Canada mostly controlled a penalty-filled first. The Canadians outshot Russia 17-7, won 18-of-25 draws and completely stifled a Russian power play that failed to score at the World Cup (0 for 11).

Russia managed only one shot on a pair of power plays, with the Canadians actually coming up with the best opportunities shorthanded, including a pair with Brent Burns in the box for tripping.

Jonathan Toews picked Evgeni Malkin and then found a trailing Logan Couture, his shot stopped by Bobrovsky. Later, it was Ryan Getzlaf locating Shea Weber, his blast also turned aside by the 28-year-old Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender.

The Canadian power play was held off the board in its first three opportunities, their best chance coming on a Steven Stamkos one-time blast late in the first.

Bobrovsky proved a difference-maker early and often. He stopped 16 of 17 shots in the first frame, continuing his stifling efforts into the second.

Two chances for Perry were turned down as Canada poured on the pressure.

Russia’s first shot of the second period didn’t come until nearly nine minutes had ticked by, but Nikita Kucherov made it count. The Tampa Bay Lightning winger grabbed hold of a clearing attempt by defenceman Nikita Zaitsev and raced in for a two-on-one rush with Vladislav Namestnikov. He fired a shot past Price’s blocker to even the score at 1-1.

Shots at that point were 24-8 in favour of Canada.

Theatrics from the Russian goaltender continued as the home side kept attacking, each scoring attempt snuffed out. Then, with just under four minutes left in the period, Russia went ahead as Evgeny Kuznetsov batted a shot past Price. He flapped his arms in the air to celebrate the Russian lead and a rare Canadian deficit.

Canada faced no real resistance in rolling through the preliminary round. They trailed once in three games for a mere 89 seconds.

The tension was short-lived. Marchand pulled his team back to even just 1:12 after the Kuznetsov marker. Again it was Crosby keying the action. He grabbed a loose a puck in the right face-off circle and slung a pass through skates and sticks to Marchand cross-ice, his shot beating Bobrovsky.

An Air Canada Centre crowd filled primarily by fans in red and white erupted.

Denied on a terrific chance moments earlier, Marchand put Canada back in front 3-2 in the second minute of the third period. Crosby dropped a pass to his fellow Nova Scotia native, with Marchand’s weak shot slipping under the glove of Bobrovsky. Given the difficulty of some of his earlier stops it was a soft goal to give up.

It was the third point and second assist of the night for Crosby, who leads all players in World Cup scoring (seven points). Bergeron added his second helper of the evening on the play.

Perry upped the Canada lead to 4-2 just over four minutes later, depositing a rebound on the doorstep of the Russian crease. Tavares added the fifth marker a few minutes after that, with Artemi Panarin scoring a meaningless marker for Russia in the dying seconds of regulation.

Canada has yet to lose in best-on-best action since the preliminary round of the 2010 Olympics, a stretch of more than six years.

Matthews turning heads entering Maple Leafs camp

By The Associated Press

Brooks Laich has seen top draft picks blossom in the NHL.

With the Washington Capitals, he watched Alex Ovechkin burst onto the scene in 2005. Now with the Toronto Maple Leafs some 11 years later, he has a ringside seat for Auston Matthews‘ debut.

The 19-year-old forward, the No. 1 overall pick this summer, turned heads at the World Cup of Hockey on a Team North American line with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele.

‘It puts a big smile on your face,” Laich, a 12-year veteran, said about watching Matthews. ”I see a lot of little things in his game, habits that you don’t generally see in young players.”

Those include his positioning, the way he competes for the puck and his shot release. From Scottsdale, Arizona, Matthews played last season in Switzerland.

Leafs center Nazem Kadri has also seen Matthews play from the Air Canada Centre stands.

”(He’s) obviously high-level skill,” he said. ”(He) can skate, he’s big. So he’s only going to get better. Obviously, with that 82-game season, it’s going to be a little difficult but I think he’s going to be more than ready for it.”

Leafs management already likes what it sees.

”There’s no question he has a bright future,” GM Lou Lamoriello said. ”It’s just exciting to see him play. But I think the most exciting thing is to know he’s ours.”

Laich reminded reporters asking about Matthews that the team comes first.

”This isn’t an individual sport,” he said. ”This isn’t a tennis or a golf where everything comes down to one person. Auston’s a great player from what I’ve seen. But there’s also going to be 22 other great players in this room.

”So as a young guy, he’s got enough pressure on himself. He puts, I’m sure, enough pressure on himself. You don’t get to be where he is already without having an internal drive like that. So we don’t need to put anything else on him. We want to make him a member of the team, we want to treat him like the other 22 guys.”

”The logo comes first. I’m sure Auston will tell you that.”

The Leafs begin on-ice activities at training camp Friday in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Sedins relishing chance for major title at World Cup

By The Associated Press

Daniel Sedin knows the World Cup of Hockey may be his final chance to represent Sweden at a best-on-best tournament along with twin brother Henrik.

With that in mind, there’s no shortage of motivation for the 35-year-old Vancouver Canucks forwards heading into Sunday’s semifinal meeting with Team Europe.

”We realize as we get older there’s not going to be a lot of these tournaments moving forward,” Daniel Sedin said. ”We don’t know about the (2018) Olympics yet, but we’re enjoying this. We’re having a lot of fun and getting a chance to play in the semifinals, it was tough getting here.

”We’re enjoying every day and we’ll have some fun on Sunday.”

The last time Sweden won gold at a best-on-best tournament was the 2006 Olympics in Turin. Sweden lost to Canada in the gold medal game at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Sweden won its round-robin opener at the World Cup 2-1 against Russia on Sunday and blanked Finland 2-0 on Wednesday before falling 4-3 in overtime to Team North America on Wednesday.

The Swedes are hoping to learn from their loss against the Under-23 team moving forward. They were thoroughly outplayed early, quickly going down 2-0 before rallying to force overtime.

”I think we can definitely learn (about) being ready when the puck drops, those first 10 minutes were pretty embarrassing from our part,” said defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. ”The Europeans have some speed in their lineup as well so we have to be ready when the puck drops. We weren’t ready for Team North America, but somehow we managed to a big comeback there.”

After losing the first two pre-tournament games by a combined 11-4 score to the North Americans, Team Europe bounced back to defeat Sweden 6-2 in its final tune up game.

”They surprised us a little bit in the exhibition game, but they won’t surprise us on Sunday,” Sedin said. ”They wait for you to make mistakes, and then they create offence from that. We’ve got to be careful on Sunday. We can’t just go on offence like we did in that pre-tournament game.

”I think our defense was jumping a little bit too much and got too involved in the offense. I think we have to respect their forwards.”

Team Europe, made up of players from eight different countries, stunned the Americans 3-0 in the tournament opener and defeated the Czechs 3-2 in overtime before falling 4-1 to the Canadians on Wednesday.

European captain Anze Kopitar pointed to the second period of the pre-tournament game against Team North America in Montreal as the turning point for the team of players unfamiliar with playing with one another.

”I think the first period in Montreal really opened our eyes and we really showed ourselves how we don’t want to play,” Kopitar said of the second pre-tournament game. ”After that, we kind of realized how we have to play: smart (and) with a lot of patience, there’s no flash to it. We’re playing a boring style of hockey, but it’s turned out to be a pretty successful one so we’re obviously proud in doing that and we’re going to continue doing that.”

The winner of Saturday’s Canada-Russia semifinal will play the winner of Sweden-Europe in a best-of-three final beginning on Tuesday.

2016 HKAHC Invitational Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament

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