Among the homemade signs Thursday night at a packed Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre was one that read: Putin the Russians in their place.
Well, not quite.
It was the Russians who put Canadian junior hockey in its place by winning the 2012 Subway Super Series with a 5-2 victory over the Western Hockey League before 7,007 fans on Blanshard Street.
The Russian juniors finished the six-game series against the Canadian Hockey League two games each against the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior League and WHL all-star teams with 10 points against eight for the CHL based on three points awarded for a regulation-time victory, two points for a shoot-out win and one point for a shoot-out loss.
Trying to figure Russian strategy before the world junior hockey championships is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, a puck riddle wrapped in a mystery net inside a sweaty hockey sock. When it comes to the Russian junior teams in the Subway Super Series from year to year, you never know what youre going to get.
But there was no hiding assets back home this time with a Russian side that included 2012 top overall NHL draft pick Nail Yakupov.
This is pretty much the [junior] national team theyve [sent] here, said WHL head coach Don Nachbaur of the Spokane Chiefs.
They are big, skilled and really skate well.
Before the game, Nachbaur said he was most concerned about Yakupov.
Its a tough thing to keep him in check, said the WHL head coach.
If you shut him down, you stand a chance.
Which the WHL did Thursday, but this is a Russian team with almost scary depth and balance.
Mikhail Naumenkov opened scoring, beating WHL starting goalie and Port Alberni native Laurent Brossoit of the Edmonton Oil Kings at 7:06 of the first period. The real killer was Andrei Sigarevs goal with nine seconds remaining in the opening period.
Ty Rattie of the Portland Winterhawks finally got the WHL on the board with a deft move to his backhand at 8:15 of the second period. Including Wednesdays 1-0 WHL shootout victory in Vancouver, in which regulation time ended scoreless, it was the WHLs first goal in five periods of hockey.
But it took the Russians just 28 seconds to regain their two-goal cushion through Kirill Dyakov. That was it for Brossoit, replaced in the WHL net by Eric Comrie of the Tri City Americans.
But after a glaring WHL turnover, it became 4-1 at 14:39 of the second as Boston Bruins draft pick and KHL pro Alexander Khokhlachev of Moscow Spartak took deadly advantage. Captain Adam Lowry got one back for the WHL in the third period before Yaroslav Kosovs empty-netter put it away for Russia.
The contest was important for the WHL players trying to impress Canadian selectors ahead of the 2013 world junior championships in Ufa, Russia.
This game is a stepping stone toward that for these players, said Nachbaur.
ICE CHIPS: Edmonton Oil Kings head coach and WHL team assistant coach Derek Laxdal quipped before the game: Ive been involved in a lot of games in this place [Memorial Centre]. But never on the home team bench. Laxdal was head coach of the Idaho Steelheads for five seasons when the Steelies and Victoria Salmon Kings locked in some pitched minor-pro ECHL battles. . . . The lone Victoria Royal dressed Thursday was forward Steven Hodges.
© Copyright 2013