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Team Canada, consisting of a group of Canadian
college students and two former NHL draft picks,
captured the gold medal over Russia at the 23rd
Winter Universiade in Torino, Italy.

Bill Meltzer | NHL.com correspondent
Jan 31, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

(Continued)

Rematch for the gold

Still smarting from an underachieving preliminary round, Team Finland reverted to the defensively solid, team-oriented approach they have ridden to success at other levels of international hockey competition. The Canadians got a bit frustrated and took nine penalties in a whistle-happy game, but their stellar penalty killing rose to the challenge on each occasion.

Canada struck first on the man advantage, as Fornier fed his University of Moncton teammate Pierre-Luc Laprise for a slap shot past Finnish goalie Joonas Hallikainen (a Jokerit Helsinki backup keeper now with minor-league club KooKoo Kouvola). The Canadians nursed their slim 1-0 lead until the middle stages of the game when Pesonen once again stepped to the forefront for Finland. The forward picked the pocket of a Canadian defender and had an unimpeded shot at Drew, beating him to the glove side.

The game remained knotted at a goal apiece until midway through the third period. Finally, McAllister fired a lead pass that found University of New Brunswick's Darryl Boyce in full stride. The forward went in on Hallikainen and snapped a shot over the glove to give Canada a 2-1 lead. The Canadians protected the lead the rest of the way, with Drew making several key saves down the stretch to preserve the win.

In the other semifinal, Russia proved too much for the game Kazakhs to handle. The Russian students methodically controlled the game against their former Soviet countrymen to grind out a 3-0 lead before Kazakhstan finally scored in the latter stages to end the shutout. In the first period, Andrei Rychagov gave Russia the lead. The narrow margin held until the third period, when a pair of Russian goals broke the game open.

As with the World Junior Championships earlier this month, the stage was now set for a Canada vs. Russia showdown for the gold medal. With consecutive gold medals under their belts and numerous players with experience in Russian pro leagues, the Russian squad figured to pose a strong threat for a three-peat. The Canadians knew that firsthand after the Russians came from behind against them on the last day of the preliminaries.

"We saw what it's really going to take the beat them," McAllister told the Canadian Press. "I think it was a wakeup call that we needed to have."

Canada fired the first salvo on the opening shift of the game. Just 18 seconds after the opening faceoff, Rob Hennigar took a lead pass from defenseman Scott Hotham of St. Mary's University and snapped a shot past Maxim Koryakin to give Canada a quick 1-0 lead. Four minutes later, Hotham scored on the power play to extend the lead to 2-0.

The two-goal lead held until late in the second period. As he did in the round-robin meeting, Andrei Rychagov keyed the Russians by beating Drew, narrowing the deficit to 2-1. The Russians pressed the attack early in the third period, but the Canadians stood firm. As fatigue set in, the Russians started to take a series of penalties that ultimately derailed their comeback hopes.

Canada's gold medal roster

Coached by St. Mary's University head coach Trevor Steinburg, Team Canada won its first Winter Universiade gold medal since 1991. The squad featured three of Steinburg's players on the Huskies. The University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University was even more heavily represented with four players apiece.

Rob Hennigar and Karl Fournier led the Canadian squad with nine points apiece (four goals, five assists each), while Brandon Benedict led all tournament goal scorers with six goals. Goaltender Paul Drew finished with a 0.73 goals-against average and .964 save percentage in six starts.

Here is the roster breakdown for the victorious squad:

Jon Ceci (G) - Acadia University
Paul Drew (G) - University of Prince Edward Island
Aaron Molnar (G) - St. Thomas University
Anthony Butera (D) - St. Thomas University
Dustin Friesen (D) - University of New Brunswick
Scott Hotham (D) - Saint Mary's University
Louis Mandeville (D) - University de Moncton
Brandon Roach (D) - Acadia University
Sam Roberts (D) - St. Francis Xavier
Ian Turner (D) - St. Thomas University
Brandon Benedict (F) - Acadia University
Darryl Boyce (F) - University of New Brunswick
Pierre-Andre Bureau (F) - Universitý de Moncton
Karl Fournier (F) - Universitý de Moncton
Rob Hennigar (F) - University of New Brunswick
Pierre-Luc Laprise (F) - Universitý de Moncton
Stuart MacRae (F) - St. Francis Xavier
Kyle McAllister (F) - St. Thomas University
Marc Rancourt (F) - Saint Mary's University
Dan Rudisella (F) - Saint Mary's University
Colin Sinclair (F) - University of New Brunswick
Tom Zanoski (F) - Dalhousie University

FULL STORY
 

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26,388 Posts
Discussion Starter #2

Team Canada, consisting of a group of Canadian
college students and two former NHL draft picks,
captured the gold medal over Russia at the 23rd
Winter Universiade in Torino, Italy.

Bill Meltzer | NHL.com correspondent
Jan 31, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

Last year at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, Team Canada left a disheartened bunch after the pre-tournament gold medal favorite left without winning a medal. This year, a dedicated bunch of Canadian university students came to Torino and avenged their NHL counterparts with a stirring gold medal victory over two-time defending gold medalist Russia at the 23rd Winter Universiade.

Team Canada featured a pair of former NHL draftees in Torino: Defenseman Louis Mandeville (Canada's flag bearer at the opening ceremonies) was a ninth-round selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Goaltender Aaron Molnar was taken in the seventh round by the Colorado Avalanche in the same draft. The Canadians benefited from a seasoned squad, carrying only one freshman, Acadia University defenseman Brandon Roach, on the roster. Bronze medal winners in 2003, Canada has now collected a total of 10 Universiade ice hockey medals, previously striking gold in 1981 and 1991.

Often called the World University Games in North America, the international tournament is organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU). The games feature student-athletes between the ages of 17 and 28 who are enrolled full time at a post-secondary institution.

This year's Universiade was broken into two brackets. The tougher bracket (Pool B) consisted of Canada, the United States, Russia, Slovakia and South Korea playing at the Tazzoli Ice Stadium in Torino, a facility constructed for the Olympics last year. The other pool consisted of the host Italians, the Czech Republic, Finland, Kazakhstan, Great Britain and Japan playing at the Torre Pelice Ice Stadium, a site that was most recently a venue for the Division I U20 IIHF World Championships.

Getting off on the right foot

In the first game of the round-robin portion of the tournament, Team Canada showed it meant business by blanking the U.S. by a 5-0 score. University of New Brunswick forward Rob Hennigar got the Canadians on the board early with a power-play goal, and the lead was doubled up on the man advantage when University of Moncton forward Karl Fournier one-timed a feed from Roach past University of Rhode Island goaltender Anthony Feyock.

After a scoreless second period, the faster Canadians hemmed the Americans deep in their own zone for of the third period. Goals by Dan Rudisuela of Saint Mary's University, Acadia University's Brandon Benedict and University of Moncton's Pierre-Luc Laprise put the game out of reach. PEI University goaltender Paul Drew needed to make just 13 saves to record the shutout for Canada.

"As much as you don't want to run up the score, it is important to score as many goals as we can. The first differential after head-to-head play is goals for," said Team Canada head coach Trevor Steinburg to Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CI Sport) after the opening game.

Steinburg's point was borne out by some of the other early robin-robin results that saw top teams take on overmatched challengers. Slovakia whipped South Korea by 13-0 count, while the Czech Republic brutalized Great Britain 12-0 and Finland thrashed Japan, 9-4. The next day, Russia crushed the Koreans 9-0 while the Azzuri of Team Italy routed Britain 10-0. In the tournament's most lopsided game, the Finns battered the hapless Brits 22-1. In their final game, first-time tournament participants Great Britain received a 20-1 pounding from the Kazakhs.

In the more evenly matched games, Finland won a see-saw 3-2 game over the Czech Republic, while Team Slovakia goaltender Michal Stieranka made a sensational save with seven seconds left to deny Penn State University's Lukas DeLorenzo and preserve a 3-2 Slovakia win over the Americans. Russia beat Slovakia 4-2 in front of a sold-out Tazzoli Stadium. On Day Three, Japan upset the Italians 3-2 and Kazakhstan upended the Czechs 5-4 as a late-game Czech rally fell short. The Czechs, who featured featured Extraliga goaltender Jan Chabera of HC Mountfield (formerly Ceske Budejovice) and former NHL draftees Jiri Jakes (Boston Bruins, fifth round, 2001 Entry Draft) and Jan Kubista (Bruins, fourth round, 2002), were favored coming into the game.

In their next game, Canada elevated the bar with arguably the tournament's most dominant performance to date. For the first half of the opening period, South Korea defenders crowded around goaltender Sun-Ki Kim and went down repeatedly to block shots. The Canadians patiently waited for their opportunities and then started to pick apart their outgunned opponents.

The Koreans, run ragged from chasing the puck, were out-shot 74 to 10 and Canada scored five in the first period, five in the second and four in the third. Eleven different players scored for Team Canada. Brandon Benedict led the way with a hat trick, while St. Thomas University's Kyle McAllister tallied a pair. Drew and Molnar split the game in goal for Canada, sharing the shutout.

Day Four saw another big upset, as the Azzuri gave the decidedly pro-Italy crowd something to cheer about. Finland seemed overconfident and mistake-prone, even after a 1-1 first period. The Italians scored twice in the middle period to take a 3-1 lead and then hung on win 3-2. The same day, Team Japan goaltender Asari Kaku turned in a stellar performance against the Czechs, but ultimately fell 5-3.

Preparing for a showdown

With one game left before the marquee Canada-Russia showdown, the Russians took on Team USA while the Canadians faced Slovakia.

Before the USA-Russia game, Team USA coach Chad Cassel stressed the importance of scoring the first goal of the game. But Russia jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on a pair of first-period, power-play goals. Andrei Rychagov scored from the goalmouth at 3:52 during a 5-on-3 advantage. Less than a minute later, Maxim Leskin extended the lead.

The Americans battled back gamely. First, Lukas DeLorenzo converted a feed from Penn State teammate Michael McMullen off a Russian turnover behind the net. In the middle period, DeLorenzo returned the favor. DeLorenzo corralled a loose rebound and chipped the puck over to McMullen, who stuffed the puck past Russian keeper Maxim Koryakin to tie the game 2-2.

The U.S. had their chances to grab the lead, but the Russians seized the opportunity in the latter half of the third period. First, Leskin scored his second goal of the match at 13:34 to restore the lead to Russia. Three minutes later, Rychagov drove through the slot to snap a shot past Feyock to give Russia a commanding 4-2 lead. Rychagov then scored an empty netter to finish off his hat trick and provide the Russians a 5-2 victory.

"Tonight was by far our best effort of the tournament," Cassel told USAhockey.com afterwards. "We controlled the game physically and made very few mistakes, but just couldn't convert on the opportunities we had after we tied the game in the second period."

Meanwhile, Canada had a considerably easier time handling Slovakia. The Canadians remained unscored upon in the tournament, cruising to an 8-0 victory on the strength of six power-play goals. Benedict scored another pair of goals for Canada, who also got two tallies apiece from Fournier and Dan Rudisuela. Mandeville and McAllister each scored once for Canada, while Drew stopped all 17 shots he faced, including several testers while the game was still 2-0.

The Canadian and Russian victories set up a head-to-head matchup for first-place in Pool B at sold-out Tazzoli Ice Stadium. All Canada needed to clinch was a tie. The Russians needed a victory.

Russia was unable to stay out of the penalty box early and Canada quickly made them pay with a pair of power-play goals. Rudisuela opened the scoring at the two-minute mark and McAllister soon followed up to forge a 2-0 lead. That's were the game remained through a cautiously played second period.

In the closing stanza, Russia finally snapped Canada's Universiade shutout streak at 223 minutes and 14 seconds, as Eugeny Isakov beat Drew to narrow the gap to single goal. Canada then got in penalty trouble, and the Russians finally capitalized on their 11th man-advantage to tie the game 2-2. Vladislav Dashkevich got the goal with four minutes left in the second period.

Although the tie was good enough to clinch Pool B, coach Steinburg was not thrilled with his team's performance. "We played hard, but not for 60 minutes," he told CI Sport. "We did accomplish the goal of winning the Pool, but we had the win in our sites."

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan proved it was for real with a 4-4 tie against Finland to win Pool A. The Kazakhs got off to an early 2-0 lead before Matti Pesonen (a forward for Division II Finnish minor league club Hermes) keyed a three-goal rally for the Finns in the middle period, but they couldn't hold off the Kazakh power play in the final period. The result set up Canada-Finland and Russia-Kazakhstan meetings in the semifinals.
 
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