Thursday, April 19, 2012

Canada Beats Russia / Catching Up With Kudrna

Jesse Wallin's crew will be playing for a medal at the World U-18 Hockey Championship after what he called their 'most complete game of the tournament.'  What remains to be seen is just which medal they will be playing for.

Canada skated to an impressive 4-2 victory over Russia earlier today in quarterfinals action in Breclav, Czech Republic.

Kerby Rychel, son of former NHLer Warren Rychel, led the Canadian scoring attack with two goals.  Mathew Dumba opened the scoring with his team leading 5th of the tournament.  Felix Girard also found the back of the net for the Red and White while Matt Murray was outstanding between the pipes, making 28 saves for the win.

After the game, Wallin told me the stage for today's win was set during a team meeting last night.

"Guys kinda laid things on the line for one another [last night] and tonight I thought they really bought into one another.  There were some guys who only played a couple of shifts and there were some guys who were asked to play a lot of minutes and I thought everyone really bought into their jobs.  They supported one another and played a solid team game."

The key point in the hockey game late in the second period when Dumba was banished to the sin bin for 2 + 10 with a (questionable at best) checking to the head penalty. Canada was clinging to a 2-1 lead at the time and Wallin was quite impressed with his team's response.

"We certainly didn't feel that it was warranted.  But to lose a guy like that for 12 minutes, I thought our defense really stepped up.  We got through that penalty kill and everyone raised their level to get through that.  And then our third goal kind of settled us back down again."

So with that, the Canadians get another shot at the Americans in tomorrow's semifinals [11am Alberta time on TSN].  Of course, Canada lost 5-3 to their southern neighbours in round-robin action on Saturday.  It was a game Wallin says taught his club some valuable lessons.

"Playing against the team favoured to win the tournament, we were right there with them.  The two things that we wanted to take out of that game was that number one - we're good enough to play with them.  And the second is the importance to stick to our game plan.  Through two periods we were fine and we carried the play at times.  But then in the third we came out and we got away from our game.  We started turning the puck over in the neutral zone allowing them to come at us.  And we got away from things defensively."

With all that in mind, Wallin says his team is full of confidence heading into Friday's semi.

"There's nothing to be aprehensive about or sit back for.  It's just about getting after it and giving ourselves the best opportunity to win."


After we had finished our chat about the game and I had given Jesse a somewhat optimistic weather update (felt rather weird to feel some sunshine around our parts for once) he passed the phone over to a special guest who had stopped by for a quick chat.

Former Rebels sniper Andrej Kudrna is now playing in his native country in the Slovak Extraliga with Slovan Bratislava.  Notable teammates include longtime NHLer Miroslav Satan.  They are in the league final and in fact will play in game seven this Saturday night versus Kosice (you can check out the official league website at just be sure to use the translator function on your browser first lol.To say the Rebels missed his hulking 6 ft 2, 200lb. frame would be a tragic understatement.  Kudrna notched 82 points (29 goals, 53 assists) as one-third of the Rebels top line in 2010-11 along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Byron Froese.

Summarizing our brief chat, Andrej told me the WHL is a great league and that it did a great job of preparing him for the jump to the professional ranks.  He'll always cherish his Red Deer experience and says he's not at all surprised to see his pal RNH do as well as he did in his rookie NHL season.

It was fun to talk to Andrej for a few minutes.  Good luck to him and his teammates in game seven on Saturday!

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