Month: November 2017 (page 2 of 3)

US beats Canada 5-1 to win 3rd straight Four Nations Cup

Hannah Brandt (20), seen here at this year's world championships, scored twice in the second period to lead the U.S. to a 5-1 victory over Canada in the Four Nations Cup final.

By Associated Press

Hannah Brandt scored twice in the second period and the United States women beat Canada 5-1 on Sunday to win their third straight Four Nations Cup championship.

Hilary Knight and Amanda Kessel each added a goal and an assist. Kendall Coyne had a goal, and Dani Cameranesi added four assists.

Maddie Rooney made 18 saves and improved to 3-0 in the Americans’ four games at this tournament.

The United States won the event for the eighth time overall. Better yet, the Americans now have beaten their biggest rivals for the third time in four games over the past month as they tune up for the Pyeongchang Games in February.

Meghan Agosta scored just past the midway point of the third period pulling Canada within 2-1. Knight and Kessel scored power-play goals to pad the margin as the Americans went 3 of 7 with the advantage.

2017 4 NationsCup champions!

https://images.thestar.com/3kkcUPoU0n0b3Hb6rp752ZMtZhg=/1086x421/smart/filters:cb(1510574583438)/https://www.thestar.com/content/dam/thestar/sports/hockey/2017/11/12/us-downs-canada-to-win-four-nations-cup-championship/four_nations_win.jpg

The Russian Olympic team are the Deutschland Cup winners

By National Teams of Ice Hockey

At the Deutschland Cup, the Russian Olympic team defeated Slovakia 4:2 to become the tournament’s winners!

Alexei Makeev scored an early goal, before two Slovakian goals gave the opponents the lead. Nevertheless, Russia proved to be strong for Slovakia, as Alexei Makeev and Mikhail Naumenkov scored further markers to earn a 4:2 victory!

The Russian Olympic team won all matches at the Deutschland Cup.

Dominik Kahun assisted on goals by Frank Mauer, Brent Raedeke and Brooks Macek as host Germany beat the United States 5-1 on Sunday in the Deutschland Cup finale. 

United States finish last in the competition losing all their Games.  

Finns claim Karjala Tournament

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Eeli Tolvanen scored a power-play goal midway through the third period to break a 3-3 tie with Canada and give the home side victory in the Karjala Tournament with a perfect 3-0 record. The game was played before a sold-out crowd at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.

The loss put Canada in fourth place with one win and two losses. Russia and Sweden finished with 2-1 records, the former receiving superior placing based on goals difference.

The Czechs tied with Canada with one win and the Swiss finished in last, going winless in the tournament.

Normally a pleasant event during a league break in European club play, this year’s Karjala Tournament had greater importance because teams used the event as a testing ground for players hoping to represent their countries at next February’s Olympics. To that end, Canada and Switzerland were added to the schedule which is usually reserved for four teams (Finland, Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden).

Finland won its three games thanks to several positive factors. Mikko Koskinen was sharp in goal for Suomi in two games; the defence allowed only two goals a game; and, the players gelled like a team. As well, 18-year-old Miro Heiskanen played like a veteran and looks to be a good bet to go to PyeongChang.

Russia scored the most goals of the six teams (13), in large part thanks to Mikhail Grigorenko, who scored four of his team’s goals and finished atop the scoring table with six points. Three of those goals came on the final day in a 5-2 win over the Czechs.

Sweden lost a 3-1 decision to Finland to start the Helsinki part of the tournament and played its best in completely shutting down Canada in a 2-0 win. Par Lindholm was the hero there, scoring two power-play goals – one in the second, one in the third – to give Tre Kronor all the offense it needed.

The team then posted an emphatic 5-3 win over the Czechs thanks to two more power-play goals, these from Dick Axelsson in the third period to break a 3-3 tie. Indeed, five of the team’s eight goals in the tournament came with the extra man.

Canada’s GM Sean Burke has had to cobble together a lineup like no GM in Canada’s long Olympic history. While most of the players are from the KHL, there are also participants from Switzerland, Sweden, the AHL, and NCAA. Coach Willie Desjardins had to be happiest with the final game when the team showed some offensive flair and legs that had been absent previously. But there is clearly work to be done before Canada can claim to be in the medal mix for PyeongChang.

The Czechs haven’t won a medal at the World Championship since 2012, the longest drought in the nearly hundred years of IIHF participation, and this result continues a worrisome trend. With its best group of players in the NHL, they are fighting to generate offence and play strong defence.

The Swiss are clearly in trouble without their NHLers. The incredible success of the nation’s program has now sent 13 players to the world’s top league, but without those stars, coach Patrick Fischer, like every other coach, has had to scramble. Losing all three games and scoring only six times doesn’t bode well for next February.

In all, teams learned a great deal about who they’ll have and what kind of team they’ll have. The news is good and bad, but time is running short. One can be sure the various general managers and coaches will confer in the coming days and do what they can to improve further. In the meantime, there are only two mini-tournaments left before Korea – the Channel One Cup in mid-December in Moscow and the Spengler Cup at the end of the year in Davos, Switzerland.

Falklands ice hockey team in international tournament in Costa Rica

By Merco Press South Atlantic News Agency

Costa Rica will be hosting the first Castillo International Ice Hockey Tournament with the participation of a home team, and three international sides, including one form the Falkland Islands. The competition is scheduled to take place at the Castillo Country Club in San Rafael de Heredia, on 18/19 November.

 “The idea cropped up during a trip five years ago to the Falkland Islands, in 2012, where I met representatives of local teams. Later on I also made ice hockey friends with people from Calgary and Los Angeles, and finally we managed to organize the competition and a schedule”, according to Bruce Callow, organizer of the event and founder of the Costa Rica Castillo Knights team.

The overseas teams are the Stanley All-Stars from the Falklands, Canadian Citizens and Ruination from LA. The competition will be played at the Senior category and includes some former professionals such as goalie Jason Wood from UK.

“At the end of the day, this first ice hockey tournament in Central America is geared to make the sport grow, to attract young people of all ages, and this kind of events will help promote the ice hockey game in Costa Rica”, adds Callow. “I can assure you that once you’ve tried hockey and get the knack of it, you’ll forget about soccer”.

Callow advanced that for next year’s edition there has also been strong interest from teams in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Argentina, which are planning to participate.

Likewise he also revealed that ice hockey has been played in Costa Rica for twenty years and the Castillo Country Club offers its members the chance of learning to play the game. The ice ring was only recently remodeled and can hold some fifty skiers at the time.

According to the schedule Stanley All Stars play hosts Castillo Knights on the morning of Saturday 18th November, and in the afternoon Canadian Citizens. On Sunday morning Falklands play Ruination from Los Angeles, and in the afternoon, at 14:00 hours and 16:00 hours, the bronze and gold medals will be disputed.

Falklands will be represented by Stanley-All Stars

Falklands will be represented by Stanley-All Stars

Canadian Filmmakers Get a View of North Korea Through Hockey

Taesongsan Winter Sports Club, a North Korean professional hockey team, was shadowed by a Canadian film crew last year

By 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The dated but majestic Pyongyang Ice Rink is adorned with timeless symbols of a country in isolation.

In the arena’s upper bowl, portraits of North Korea’s past leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, hang like championship banners.

On the ice below, the national men’s hockey team often simulates a five-on-four penalty killing drill that was introduced to the North Koreans by the Soviets several decades ago.

Over the past year, five Canadian filmmakers have often been at the rink with the team, sometimes even on the ice. They are documenting the slap shots and the post-practice speeches, but are also trying to peel back the layers of a long-existing hockey subculture in one of the world’s most mysterious nations.

Why were their pads and equipment old? Why did they repeatedly run the same predictable plays? Where did these players come from?

“All of the questions that I’m sure a lot of people have about North Korea and hockey over there, I had when I first went,” said Nigel Edwards, 27, the director of the coming documentary “Closing the Gap.”

The opportunity to get answers to those questions raised even more. How did a film crew from Vancouver, British Columbia, acquire unparalleled access to shadow North Korean sports teams?

Players from the Taesongsan and Pyongyang Choldo teams lined up after a game at the Pyongyang Ice Rink.

Matt Reichel, one of the film’s producers, worked and lived in Asia on and off over the past decade. A 2009 graduate of Brown University’s international relations and East Asian studies program, Reichel started nonprofit and digital marketing ventures while living overseas, building connections in the process.

He estimated that he had been to North Korea more than 60 times. On one of those visits, he discovered that North Korea had a pastime in common with his home country.

“I saw that there was a hockey tournament one year around the time of Kim Jong-il’s birthday, so I decided to go check it out,” he said.

Back in Vancouver, his hometown, Reichel teamed up with Edwards, a former television production assistant.

“We wanted to use media arts as a way to look at something about North Korean society that’s not political,” Reichel, 30, said. “We focused on a very tiny slice of North Korean society and wanted to see what we can learn about it in a very earnest, very honest way.”

It took two years of leveraging Reichel’s contacts and forming new ones with the Ministry of Sports and the Korean Ice Hockey Association, a league of seven clubs, for the filmmakers to get permission for the project.

In November 2016, the production crew went on the first of three trips to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to shadow the men’s national team and a professional team, Taesongsan Winter Sports Club. Reichel and Sunny Hahm, an associate producer, a translator and a Seoul native, provided insight into North Korean culture for the new visitors.

“They told us the first time you go there you’re a stranger, the second time you’re a friend, and the third time you are family,” Edwards said.

Taesongsan’s goalies, left, listened to their coach in the locker room at Pyongyang Ice Rink during a Tournament of the Republic game against Pyongyang Choldo, right, in November 2016.

To break the ice with the athletes during the first days of filming, the crew played the Canadian card.

“I think from a hockey standpoint, they were very interested in us being Canadians,” Edwards said. “I think they were a little more disappointed that my entire production team couldn’t skate.”

But Hahm, a competitive recreation hockey player, could skate and was critical to building rapport. Aside from being able to speak Korean, he often practiced with the Taesongsan team, making suggestions to the coach and players.

In a game during the crew’s first trip, the Taesongsan coach presented Hahm with a jersey and an offer to sit with the team during the game, though Hahm did not play because of Korean Ice Hockey Association rules.

For the rest of the crew, trust and relationships were built on consistency and gestures. Edwards made a point of learning each player’s name; in turn they remembered his. While shooting interviews, members of the crew were cognizant of their subjects’ skepticism.

“We spent lots of conversations just sort of talking about, how do we frame these questions?” Edwards said. “How do we try to show and prove to them that we mean well and we’re not going to like rip them off or show them in a bad light?”

Every morning after breakfast, the crew made the five-minute trek from its downtown hotel to the arena.

Many competitors in ice sports like speed skating, figure skating and hockey have the arena on a given day. The schedule is planned to the minute, Edwards said.

haring the facility is efficient, but not conducive to ideal hockey practice. The ice is worn from overuse, and divots courtesy of the figure skaters are visible throughout the rink. The glass is scratched, and the boards lack compression.

The hockey play is also behind the times.

“It was a very conservative, traditional style of play,” Hahm, 29, said. “You can tell there was a sense of real lack of creativity when it comes to formulating plays.”

According to the filmmakers, North Korean teams still abide by the training materials and methodologies passed on from the Soviet Union in the 1950s. While South Korea’s hockey program has evolved in recent years, qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics as the host country, North Korea’s has remained stagnant. The lack of outside exposure and information sharing — televised N.H.L. games, foreign-exchange skills clinics and access to the internet — has significantly impeded the progress.

“The vast majority of the team comes from the countryside, and they are recruited as kids 12, 13 years old, based on who has athletic talent in those small villages or towns,” Reichel said.

Most of the team’s equipment is used and is donated by the International Ice Hockey Federation, which is based in Zurich. The film crew tried to help, contributing tape and new composite graphite hockey sticks.

“We wanted them to feel they were on equal levels of playing,” Hahm said.

What the North Korean players lack in knowledge, gear and size (no one on the national team is over six feet tall), they try to make up for through discipline and heart.

“You must rise higher and faster because if you are running, the opposite player is flying, and in order to catch up them, you need to train harder,” Hong Chun-rim, a star forward, said through an interpreter in “Closing the Gap.”

The filmmakers shadowed the Taesongsan team for 11 days during their first trip in November. When they returned to film last spring for three weeks, they focused on the 20-man national team, which was training for and competing in the I.I.H.F. world championship in Auckland, New Zealand.

A coach for the Taesongsan team waiting as a local team practiced. The professional
team shares the facility with other clubs and with athletes in other ice sports.

A Division II team in international competition, North Korea was in a pool that also included China, Israel and Mexico.

Hong, the fastest and most skilled player on the team, scored a hat trick in North Korea’s only victory in Auckland — an 11-3 win over Turkey. The team had sustained several injuries, mainly from the intense play against bigger and stronger opponents.

The yearly change of scenery for international tournaments provides an opportunity for the players to explore things they cannot find in Pyongyang.

“When we were in New Zealand, there was a group of them that would always be looking at YouTube videos in the lobby,” Edwards said. “They are very aware that there is the N.H.L. and big players. So, when they travel abroad, they always learn more.”

In December, the crew will make one last trip to Pyongyang to conclude filming. The filmmakers are seeking a distributor and hope to show the documentary at the top film festivals next year.

“We said this story is going to be a real interesting tile,” Reichel said, “as if North Korea is this giant mosaic and there’s all these different components to what North Korean society is.”

He added that he did not expect the recent rising tensions between North Korea and the United States to have much impact on the players’ day-to-day lives.

“They are all seeking what we all seek, which is self-worth,” Edwards said. “They are just looking for a place to prove themselves, and that, for them, is winning gold on an international stage. Even though, how realistic is that?

“But they will keep pushing that forever, because that is their job.”

Big saves, timely scoring lead Russia to 5-2 victory in Owen Sound

By 2017 CIBC CANADA RUSSIA SERIES

Owen Sound, ON – Alexey Melnichuk made 35 saves and Russia scored five times on 18 shots to defeat Team OHL 5-2 in Owen Sound and take a 6-3 (points) lead in the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series.

Artyom Manukyan and Alexey Polodyan both scored twice while OHL talent played a large part in the Russian victory as Dmitri Samorukov (Guelph Storm), Alexey Lipanov (Barrie Colts) and Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury Wolves) all found the scoresheet.

“Altogether I thought we played pretty well,” said three-year Team OHL veteran Will Bitten (Hamilton Bulldogs). “We had a lot of shots and scoring opportunities but their goaltender was outstanding.

“They have a good team over there and they came out hard tonight,” he continued. “We have to have a short memory and come ready to play on Monday in Sudbury.”

Team OHL captain Taylor Raddysh (Erie Otters) opened the scoring, converting on a penalty shot at the CIBC Canada Russia Series for the second straight year. The big winger beat Melnichuk inside the far post on a quick release just 36 seconds into action.

The Russians didn’t need long to draw even though as new recruit Dmitri Samorukov (Guelph Storm) blasted a point shot past his OHL counterpart Dylan Wells (Peterborough Petes) in the Team OHL crease.  The tying goal came off a Russian offensive zone faceoff win as the game was knotted at one at 7:31.

After a trio of high quality Melnichuk saves off Bitten and Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting), the Russians climbed ahead on the power play, ending an 0-for-14 slide on the man advantage dating back to 2015.

Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Alexey Lipanov (Barrie Colts) blazed down the right wing, opening up a lane for an oncoming Artyom Manukyan speeding down the middle for an open net finish at 16:24.

Team OHL outshot Russia 16-7 but trailed 2-1 after 20 minutes.

The two sides traded quick goals in the opening half of the second period as Florida Panthers prospect Adam Mascherin (Kitchener Rangers) finished off a pretty power play passing sequence in the goalmouth. Buffalo Sabres draftee Cliff Pu found a waiting Mascherin 7:59 into the frame as he drew Team OHL even at two.

Russia regained the lead less than two minutes later though as Manukyan, who set a record with 105 points in Russia’s top Junior Circuit last season, found his second of the night. Minnesota Wild prospect Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury Wolves) took an outlet pass from Lipanov on a quick transition play after Team OHL failed to enter the offensive zone, dishing to an open Manukyan who made it 3-2 at 9:43 of the second.

Alexey Polodyan took out an insurance policy on the Russian lead before the second expired, scoring a highlight reel goal as he danced around two OHL defenders to beat Wells under the arm at 16:15.

Russia led 4-2 after two periods despite being outshot 28-14.

Though Team OHL controlled the pace in the third, their offensive efforts were thwarted by the fine play of Melnichuk as Polodyan would eventually find his second of the night into an empty net with 52 seconds remaining.

Team OHL outshot Russia 37-18 on the night, but the scoreboard told another story in a 5-2 loss.

“I don’t think the score was indicative of how things went out there tonight,” said Owen Sound Attack fan favourite Markus Phillips who had a chance to play in front of a sold out Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre. “It was a great atmosphere and I thought we did a lot of good things but our execution just wasn’t there.”

Russia improves to 5-4-0-0 against the OHL over the past five years at the CIBC Canada Russia Series.

Nine OHL players will remain in the lineup on Monday night when series shifts to Sudbury for Game 4.

Catch Monday’s action on Sportsnet Ontario, East and Pacific when the puck drops at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT.

Canadian teens cut from the NHL shift focus to starring at world juniors

By Michael Traikos – National Post

One dream has been put on hold. Another is about to begin.

A day after the Florida Panthers returned Owen Tippett to the Ontario Hockey League, the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft was back practising with the Mississauga Steelheads on Tuesday.

If he was bitter or disappointed, he didn’t show it. Instead, Tippett was already looking ahead to the next challenge: winning a spot on Canada’s roster for the world junior championship.

“I’ve dreamed about playing for Team Canada at the world juniors ever since I was a little kid, so to play in that tournament would be a really special feeling,” said the 18-year-old forward. “I obviously can take a lot back from what I learned there and implement it here.”

Tippett, who unexpectedly made Florida’s roster out of training camp, scored a goal and had 17 shots — only once did he fail to register a shot — in seven NHL games for the Panthers.

“What I like about him is he wants the puck and he wants it in critical situations,” GM Dale Tallon told Postmedia News in September. “I think his game is well suited to the pros.”

At times, Tippett looked like he might stick. He had seven shots in his NHL debut. On his goal, he showcased his speed when he grabbed a turnover and sprinted up the ice before converting on a give-and-go against John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks. But he was in and out of Florida’s lineup; he averaged 11 minutes of ice time and watched nearly half the games from the press box.

At 18, Tippett needs to play so he can develop. That’s why he was sent back to junior on the same day the Edmonton Oilers returned 22nd-overall pick Kailer Yamamoto (no goals and three assists in nine games) to the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League.

“I’ve realized now it’s not as big of a jump as some people might say,” said Tippett. “Anyone who’s my age who gets to start out with an NHL club at the start of the year (has) a great experience. I obviously can take a lot back from what I learned there and implement it here.”

The hope now is that both players will represent their respective countries — Yamamoto is American — at the world junior championship, which begins in Buffalo over the Christmas holidays next month. For Canada, getting a player with NHL experience, even if it’s only seven games, is a benefit.

“I think they came back with tremendous confidence. That’s first and foremost,” Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen said in a phone interview from Swift Current, Sask., where he was watching the first leg of the Canada-Russia series.

“We’re always looking for offence and ways to produce offence. And (Tippett) can do that. We expect him to be part of the offence and certainly in the mix. But he has to prove it right away.”

While it appears no draft-eligible player will find his way onto Canada’s roster, McEwen is “crossing his fingers” that several players currently on NHL rosters will be made available. Some, such as Columbus forward Pierre-Luc Dubois and Montreal defenceman Victor Mete, are long shots. Others, like Colorado’s Tyson Jost and Samuel Girard, could be last-minute additions.

The biggest name out there is No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick, who has played nine games with Philadelphia, but has been out of the Philadelphia’s lineup since Oct. 24 with a head injury. Once healthy, the Flyers have to decide whether to keep Patrick past the 10-game threshold or return him to the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.

Another question mark concerns Michael McLeod (12th overall, 2016). The Devils prospect tore his meniscus during a pre-season game and has been recovering from knee surgery ever since. It’s doubtful New Jersey will keep him around once he’s healthy.

“The information that we get is that his rehab is going real well and it’s getting close to the point where he’s going to get cleared,” McEwan said of McLeod, who had two goals and one assist in seven games for Canada at last year’s world juniors. “We’ll communicate with the Devils and see what’s in the plans. He would be a nice addition, having played last year and being a veteran guy.”

The Matt Duchene trade could affect whether Canada ends up with a couple of key players.

At one time, it looked like Jost (10th overall, 2016) might become available, since he was in and out of Colorado’s lineup and averaging only 13 minutes a game. But with Duchene gone from the Avalanche, Jost could see an increase in ice time moving forward. Another difficult assessment concerns Girard (47th overall, 2016), who looked like he would be loaned for the world juniors after getting demoted to Nashville’s AHL affiliate. But that was before he was traded to Colorado.

“Now that Samuel’s been traded, I don’t know what the plan is there, and that’s fine,” said McEwen, who is also keeping an eye on Mete’s declining minutes with the Canadiens. “He played a ton of minutes early and now it’s come down. For me, that’s not an indicator of whether we’re going to get him back or not. We’re just waiting and seeing where it all plays out.

“We prepare the names that we have now, and if those guys come back, it will be a bonus.”

HART FAVOURED TO START IN GOAL

Canada’s selection camp for the 2018 world junior championship is still a month away, but it appears Carter Hart has the inside track on the No. 1 goaltending position.

The 19-year-old, who is one of six potential returning players who won silver at last year’s tournament, posted a shutout in a 7-0 win Monday in the Canada-Russia super series in Moose Jaw, Sask. It was a good first step for the Philadelphia Flyers prospect, who had played sparingly this season because he had been sick with mono.

“I thought Carter Hart was really good,” said Hockey Canada head scout Brad McEwen. “Even though it was 7-0, he was great, which was great to see.”

Hart, who was selected 48th overall in the 2016 draft after being named CHL goalie of the year, is expected to battle Vancouver Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro for the starting job.

DREAMING OF THE OLYMPICS

By Dhiren Mahiban – IIHF.com

On 25th October Wolski received a call from Hockey Canada to be a part of Team Canada at the Karjala Tournament – an opportunity for the 31-year-old to showcase his game with the hopes of making the Canadian roster for PyeongChang.

“I thought if I do come back, this is one of the things that’s going to be a goal of mine to try to make Team Canada and play in the Olympics so at this point to be named to the team for this upcoming tournament it’s just another opportunity to try and solidify a spot so I’m really excited about it,” said Wolski. “It’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about and something that’s been keeping me motivated.”

Wolski, who was born in Poland but moved to Toronto at the age of four, has never played in an IIHF-sanctioned event before.

“For many years it’s something that eluded me that I couldn’t seem to grasp,” he said. “It was always just something I wanted to do, but couldn’t and wasn’t good enough or wasn’t invited to (participate). 

“To be playing well now and to be given the chance is special.”

Wolski is one of 26 players on Canada’s roster for the Karjala Tournament, which begins today with a match-up against Switzerland. Representing the Canadians are 11 players who didn’t participate in either the Sochi Hockey Open or the Tournament of Nikolai Puchkov in Russia over the summer. 

With NHL players not being available for the Olympics, Hockey Canada is using events such as the Karjala Tournament to audition eligible players in an effort to put together a strong roster for the February Olympics. 

“If you had asked me even last year, I wouldn’t think I would be in this position, all the players would be in this position,” said Wolski. “We have a really tremendous opportunity to play in the Olympics and that’s very special for any player, any athlete. Anyone playing a sport, to be able to be given a chance to play in the Olympics is an incredible thing.”

Wolski’s hockey career nearly ended last October during a KHL game. While playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Wolski was chasing down a loose puck and decided to dive in an attempt to knock the puck away from Barys Astana’s Vladimir Markelov, but caused Markelov to fall on top of him.

The impact of Markelov falling on Wolski, who collided headfirst into the boards on the play, caused him to break his neck.

Wolski was stretchered off the ice thinking he was paralyzed. He spent 10 weeks in a neck brace and required surgery for one of the damaged vertebrae wiping out any chance of a return for the 2016/17 season. 

In June, Wolski signed a two-year contract with Chinese KHL team Kunlun Red Star, despite doctors recommending that he perhaps put an end to his hockey career. 

“I wasn’t sure after the surgery how things would go,” he said. “Also, if I should play. Some of the doctors I’m close with and friends with, that I really rely on and have really relied on over the years, suggested that it was maybe better to retire. 

“It was tough to hear that from them knowing that they were coming from a place of wanting to help me and give me the best advice possible. They’ve been there for many, many years and they’ve always helped me so hearing from them that I should probably retire is pretty tough.” 

Wolski not only returned to the ice, but is playing some of the best hockey of his career. The six-foot-three (190 cm), 220-pound (100 kg) forward has a team-leading 25 points in 25 games. 

It’s been a nice change for Wolski, a veteran of 451 NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals. Originally a first-round pick (21st overall) by Colorado in 2004, Wolski netted 99 goals and 267 points over eight NHL seasons, but admitted the inconsistency issues on the ice caused him to deal with depression – something he saw a therapist for while playing in New York. 

To be producing at a point a game pace in the KHL this season has helped put the fun back into hockey for Wolski. 

“The last couple years I kind of found my game again, I won a (KHL) championship,” he said. “It’s definitely been a lot more fun and knowing that I’m in my 30s now and I have kids, at this point I’m just trying to enjoy the game as long as I can, as much as I can, knowing that I’m closer to the end now than to the beginning. It gives you perspective and things like last year really give me perspective on life and hockey and the significance of what I’m doing.” 

After spending the first four years of his KHL career in Russia, Wolski is also enjoying the change of scenery off the ice in China. 

“Shanghai is an incredible city. It really reminds me of New York a lot,” Wolski said. “There’s so many cool pockets in the city that you can go see and they’re so different from each other.

“One of the reasons that I signed here is to be able to live in a bigger city, have my family here and experience a little bit of normalcy away from the rink. That’s been pretty incredible.”

Beijing will play host to the 2022 Olympics. The NHL also scheduled a couple pres-eason games in China earlier this season in an effort to grow the game there, but hockey is still in its infancy in terms of popularity, according to Wolski. 

“It’s definitely not one of the big sports,” said Wolski. “It’s breaking ground and we’re trying to attract as many people as we can to the sport, especially young kids. Trying to get them involved so they can further the program and advance it on the international level. It’s at the beginning, but for sure in a couple years it’ll catch on.” 

Wolski has no plans for an NHL return. His focus now is on producing for Kunlun and having his kids watch him play a high level of hockey. 

“I’ve got a family, I’ve got kids, I’m happy with where I’m at,” he said. “I enjoy the responsibilities I have within the team playing big minutes and to be able to live in Shanghai and experience what we have here is pretty outstanding so I think (the NHL is) something, at this point, I really don’t think about anymore.

“My son is almost three. I’d like to play 3-4 more years. I’d like to have him around the rink, I’d like to see him watch me play and the excitement on his face. I think I’m still playing well. I just battled back from a big injury so I want to enjoy it as much as I can.”

Russians battle back for 4-3 win in Swift Current

By 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series

Swift Current, SK – New Jersey Devils prospect Mikhail Maltsev’s second of the night with 7:54 left in the third period completed the comeback as Russia battled back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat Team WHL 4-3 in Game 2 of the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series.

Maltsev’s shorthanded game winner rounded out a three-goal third period for the Russians as the series transitions to the Ontario Hockey League on Thursday night in Owen Sound tied 3-3 in points.

Russia scored three times on eight third period shots, battling back to silence a sold out Credit Union iPlex in Swift Current as Winnipeg Jets prospect Mikhail Berdin made some timely saves to close out the win.

“They played us a lot harder tonight and we expected that,” said Team WHL’s Sam Steel (Regina Pats). “We had a couple of bad bounces, a couple of turnovers and they capitalized on those. They got a good performance in net and we didn’t capitalize the way we did last night.”

New York Islanders draft selection David Quenneville (Medicine Hat Tigers) scored twice in the loss while Calgary Flames pick Dillon Dube (Kelowna Rockets) had a goal and two assists and Steel registered three helpers.

“It seemed like every shift we got a little bit more comfortable, started making more and more plays,” Steel noted of his line alongside Dube and Tyler Steenbergen (Swift Current Broncos). “You don’t get a chance to play with guys like that too often, so it was a lot of fun.”

After registering just 20 shots on Monday the Russians came out firing in Game 2, outshooting Team WHL 17-6 in the opening frame as Edmonton Oilers prospect Stuart Skinner (Lethbridge Hurricanes) was big when called upon.

Though outshot, the WHL took out the game’s first lead on the power play just 1:27 into action as Dube finished on his own rebound from close quarters with assists from Steel and Jake Bean (Calgary Hitmen).

Team WHL passed a big test in the opening frame, killing off a five-minute major charged to Tanner Kaspick (Brandon Wheat Kings) to enter the second period up 1-0.

After Skinner stopped Russian defenceman Artyom Minulin (Swift Current Broncos) on an early second period odd-man rush the WHL power play went back to work as Quenneville increased the lead to 2-0. Quenneville finished off a Dube cross-crease feed at 6:17, beating a sprawling Berdin across the crease.

Quenneville struck again on the power play just over two minutes later at 8:33, giving Team WHL three power play goals in a single game for the first time since 2011. Dube and Steel picked up assists once again as Team WHL was in full control up 3-0 midway through the contest.

Russia caught a break later in the second after Berdin stopped Kole Lind (Kelowna Rockets) on a penalty shot attempt.

Mikhail Maltsev scored Russia’s first goal of the series with 3:38 left on the clock, keeping a puck in at the offensive blue line before working with Alexey Polodyan and Maxim Tsyplakov to wrist a shot past Skinner from the high slot.

Team WHL led 3-1 after two periods, outshooting Russia 17-8 in the second frame.

The opportunistic Russians came on strong early in the third period as big defenceman Artyom Maltsev couldn’t beat Skinner on his first attempt from the right faceoff circle, but followed up on his own rebound at 6:28 to cut the WHL lead to 3-2.

Chicago Blackhawks third round selection Andrey Altybarmakyan took advantage of a Team WHL miscue to knot the score at three midway through the third. His unassisted goal saw him pick off an errant WHL outlet pass and out-wait a sprawling Skinner on the forehand.

Mikhail Maltsev completed the comeback, taking advantage of a fortunate bounce off the boards that saw a loose puck bounce back out into the slot where he quickly sent a release past Skinner from the high slot at 12:06.

Team WHL pulled Skinner in the game’s final two minutes but couldn’t solve Berdin, settling for split decisions against Russia to open the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series.

Russia took the shooting column 33-32, marking the first time they’ve outshot Team WHL in the event since November 15th, 2012. Team WHL finished the night 3-for-6 on the power play and finished 57% (34-of-60) in the faceoff circle.

Dillon Dube (Kelowna Rockets) led the WHL in series scoring with five points (2-3–5) over two games. He becomes just the second WHL player in event history to register five points in a series, joining Collin Shirley (Kamloops Blazers) who did so in 2015.

The Western Hockey League wraps up the series with an all-time record of 20-7-1-2, sending the series to Owen Sound for Game 3 on Thursday against Team OHL.

Thursday’s matchup can be seen on Sportsnet Ontario, East and Pacific when the puck drops at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT.

Karjala Cup Primer: Who to Watch on Every Team

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

The 2017 Karjala Cup is upon us. Here’s a look at all six teams participating at the first leg of the Euro Hockey Tour this season.

If you weren’t from one of the four participating countries, you likely haven’t paid much attention to the Euro Hockey Tour or the Karjala Cup in previous years. Sure, it’s a men’s level tournament and features a lot of players trying to make future national teams, but without many big stars each year, it stayed as a tournament that was only important to Russia, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

But for this year’s Karjala Cup, the tournament has seen the addition of Switzerland and Canada, who aren’t even from Europe. For all six teams, this tournament means more than usual thanks to it being part of the lead-up to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. The tournament will take place from November 8-12, mostly in Helsinki, Finland, and will serve as the first real pre-Olympic competition since the Sochi Hockey Open back in August.

In order to prepare for the first leg of the Euro Hockey Tour for 2017-2018, let’s take a look at all the teams participating in this week’s international break event.

Canada

It all starts in goal for Canada, and Ben Scrivens is Canada’s go-to guy leading up to the Olympics. Scrivens has had a few tough seasons in the NHL after stealing the show with the Los Angeles Kings back in 2013-2014 when Jonathan Quick was injured. In 2014, Scrivens out-played former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie partner James Reimer and earned Canada’s starting role heading into the quarter-finals. He had some so-so moments at the Nikolai Puchkov Tournament but for the most part, he looked good enough to get the job done.

Saying Andrew Ebbett could be one of Canada’s best players sounds extremely odd when given some of Canada’s key players at previous Olympics. But for Canada, it’s a reality. The former AHL star has proven to make a good partnership with SC Bern teammate Mason Raymond and will be a big duo a few months from now. But at the Karjala Cup, both will get a chance to showcase the skill they showed at the Spengler Cup last December and the Sochi Hockey Open in August.

Former second line forward Rene Bourque is someone who will need a good tournament to help further his chances at a spot. Bourque wasn’t on the radar during the summer, but with a great start this season in Sweden, he’ll be given a chance. Chris Lee, a defenceman who couldn’t secure an NHL deal after a good year in the KHL, will make his national team season debut at the tournament just months after shining at the World Championships.

Linden Vey never had much of an NHL career, but the former Calgary Flame has been battling for the top scoring spot in the KHL with Ilya Kovalchuk and Nikita Gusev all season long. That alone gives him a chance to be a top six contributor at the Karjala. And don’t sleep on Eric O’Dell, Canada’s top line centre for much of the Sochi Hockey Open, and forwards Brandon Kozun and Wojtek Wolski, two forwards with a lot to prove in hopes of some day returning to the NHL.


Czech Republic

The last team to announce their roster and perhaps the weakest team on paper, the Czech Republic will have a mountain to climb if they want to win just their second tournament title ever. Champions back in 2012, the Czech’s, like many teams, were hit big due to the NHL keeping players from competing at the Olympics.

But unlike Canada, Russia or USA, the team doesn’t have that big of a pool to choose from. In fact, despite bringing many long-time national team players to the Karjala Cup, the team doesn’t have a talent pool chock-full of NHL castoffs waiting in the wings.

The team’s goaltending, however, do have a familiar face. Marek Mazanec was a back-up in the NHL for many years before signing with HC Slovan Bratislava in the KHL this past season, where he currently acts as the starting goalie.

Former NHLers Ladislav Smid and Jiri Sekac will get extended roles with the squad. Smid missed all of last season with the Calgary Flames and signed in his native land to hopefully get his career back on track. Sekac’s failed NHL experiment lasted only two seasons between four teams before joining AK Bars Kazan last year, and after a good start this season, he’s done a good job to keep himself going strong.

Dominik Kubalik, the top scoring player in the Czech league over the past two years, will likely receive extensive ice time up front for a team that will be desperate for goals. Jan Kovar isn’t up to his usual KHL scoring numbers with Metallurg but after ripping it up last year with 12 points in seven Euro Hockey Tour games, this could be the way to turn his season around.

Other big names for the Czech’s include Detroit Red Wings prospect Lukas Radil, Michal Repik and Michal Birner. Still, while the team have some players who have represented the squad in various international tournaments, there isn’t a lot of game-changing players that will help them win the Karjala Cup.

Finland

When you ask fans which teams will have a strong Olympics, Finland seems to be almost a for-sure choice in the top four. Their Euro Hockey Tour team may not have a whole lot of star power, but with a solid goaltender, strong defense and a couple of highly-touted prospects, the team is set up for success this year.

The Finns could have one of the top goaltenders in the entire tournament with Mikko Koskinen. Sure, he’s lost his starting role for SKA St. Petersburg to 21 year old Igor Shestyorkin, but losing your job to one of the best goalies in the league isn’t a knock on his ability. They still give him a lot of starts, and his stats, albeit on the KHL’s most dangerous team, have been great. Koskinen is always one of the best goalies when called upon in Euro Hockey Tour action and Finland in general, especially at the 2016 World Championships.

Up front, the team will hope to get some good offense out of 2013 World Championships star Petri Kontiola. At 33, he’s lost some of his speed and isn’t producing like he used to in the KHL but when he does get called upon for Finland, they tend to get a good performance out of the former Chicago Blackhawks prospect.

There will be a lot of eyes on Nashville Predators first-rounder Eeli Tolvanen. The 18-year-old is extremely quick and is a magician with the puck, whether it be his wicked release or his accurate passing ability. He’s close to a point-per-game in the KHL with Jokerit this season, which is an impressive task given how he played in the USHL the past two seasons, He was one of Finland’s few bright spots at last year’s World Juniors and can use his experience when he makes his men’s team debut this week.

Former Edmonton Oilers forward Teemu Hartikainen is also off to a good start in the KHL this year, fifth with Ufa. He has a tendency to disappear in international events for Finland, but with no NHLers to worry about over the next few months, he could prove his offensive worth. Veli-Matti Savinainen was one of Finland’s best players in international play last year and will be counted on to replicate his strong performance again this year.

On the back end, there’s no question veteran Sami Lepistö will be the leader in almost all situations. Dallas Stars first-rounder Miro Heiskanen will also earn lots of ice time thanks to a great start in Liiga play this year with HIFK. Overall, Finland should be a competitive squad on home ice, but with a deeper talent pool this year overall, they’ll have to get scrappy.

Russia

2018 Olympic champions, Russia? Sure, that’s the expectation, but the Karjala Cup is just the next step for Russia on their quest for gold.

It all begins in net with Igor Shestyorkin, who could very well compete for the top goalie award in the KHL this season. Henrik Lundqvist’s future replacement in New York, Shestyorkin’s 15-1-2 record to start off the year has been too much to handle for most other teams. Russia does have other good veteran goalies to choose from, but Shestyorkin is having too good of a season to ignore at this point, even if his team has been lights out at every other position.

The Russians will be without scoring stars Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Vadim Shipachyov, but that shouldn’t hurt them too much. The all-time KHL leading scorer, Sergei Mozyakin is, well, good, even at 35. He lead the league in scoring last year and already is playing at over a point-per-game midway through the season. Then there is Mikhail Grigorenko, who was arguably Russia’s best player at the Sochi Hockey Open in August following a brutal few years in the NHL. How about future Minnesota Wild and upcoming Russian superstar Kirill Kaprizov? He had four points in three games in last year’s EHT and has dominated the scoring charts in practically every event he’s played in internationally.

Nikita Gusev has garnered NHL chatter in recent months and for good reason. Vegas recently acquired his rights from Tampa Bay and if he ever makes it over, he’ll be an immediate top six scoring star. Sergei Plotnikov, Sergei Shirokov and Ivan Telegin will act as veteran role players to supplement youngsters Valeri Nichushkin and Pavel Kraskovsky.

Russia’s biggest issue? Defence, but with the amount of goals they’ll likely score, they should be able to follow up their championship at the Karjala a year ago with another title.

Sweden

Sweden could end up going with either Jhonas Enroth or Magnus Hellberg in net. Both goalies have NHL experience in recent years, but there’s a good chance that Enroth will get an extra start to eep Sweden in the Karjala title contention. Enroth will likely get the nod due to his past experience with the team and overall better record in pro hockey, but Hellberg, being a young gun, will want to take every opportunity he can to make himself the starter when it matters most in February.

The top defence pairing will likely consist of at least one of Patrik Hersley or Steffan Kronwall.  Hersley, a former draft pick of the LA Kings, is a big defenceman capable of creating plays from his own zone effectively.  A member of the super SKA St. Petersburg squad in the KHL, Hersley is on pace for career-high numbers with 23 points in 25 games this season. Hersley has never played for Sweden at the World Championships, but he’s always a major fixture in Euro Hockey Tour play. For Kronwall, the former Toronto Maple Leaf is a proven veteran who shines every time he’s called upon for Sweden and will end up being a major leader heading up to the Olympic games.

All eyes, however, will likely land on Rasmus Dahlin. The consensus favourite to go first overall at the upcoming NHL Draft, there’s a chance Dahlin could play at the Karjala Cup, Channel One Cup, Carlson Hockey Games, Sweden Games, World Junior Championships, World Championships and U18 World Championships this season alone. Dahlin played in two exhibition contests last year for the men’s team, but this will really be his first chance to prove himself against men in international competition.

Sweden will have a good mix of speedy forwards that can chip in a few goals every now and then. Oscar Moller, a former LA Kings forward, fits that bill. In 16 games with Skellefteå AIK this season, Moller has been good for 15 points, already beating his total from last year. Moller has a lot of experience in EHT tournaments and is always a top contributor each season, making him worth a watch. Anton Lander, an Edmonton Oilers castoff, had a really good season with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors last year but his initial foray into the KHL hasn’t seen much offense with just two goals in 27 games. Dick Axelsson, Linus Omark and Johan Ryno bring valuable skill to the team and should grab a few points each, while Joakim LIndstrom, Robert Nilsson and Joel Lundqvist all bring veteran experience and some offense to boot.

Switzerland

No matter what event it is, the Swiss never seem to just lay down and take what’s giving to them. They always put up a fight, and their first ever Euro Hockey Tour event is going to be a challenge, no doubt. But with a team full of players that have stuck together for years, it’s no question the team could steal a game or two against some of the stronger hockey powers.

Leading the way between the pipes will be Jonas Hiller, Switzerland’s goalie at the previous two Olympics. The former Anaheim Ducks star played for his nation at the World Championships last year for the first time since 2007, and it’s safe to say it was a rocky run. Hiller could be called upon due to his experience, but if he falters at any point, Gilles Senn will be called upon to make just his first tournament start for the Swiss.

On defence, former NHL depth defender Raphael Diaz will be the go-to guy to get the puck moving. Diaz doesn’t score that often, but he does a solid job of making plays happen and creating scoring opportunities for his teammate. Diaz will be counted on to be a workhorse defencemen, perhaps paired with veteran Eric Blum. Blum had only skated in five games prior to getting named to Switzerland’s roster or the Karjala Cup, but has looked decent when he has played. He’s represented the Swiss in international competition for many years, and with no Roman Josi to worry about, Blum will need to step up.

The Swiss always have a lot of familiarity on their roster, and this year is no different. The roster features seven HC Davos players, including star Andres Ambuhl. Ambuhl has been one of Switzerland’s best players in international in recent years and has had a good season with Davos this season. Reto Suri, Pius Suter, Simon Moser, Denis Hollenstein, Gregory Hofmann, Fabrice Herzog, Cody Almond and Luca Cunti are all veterans of the national team will some good scoring ability, while Vincent Praplanis fresh off of leading Switzerland in team scoring at last year’s World Championships.

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