Saturday, January 05, 2008

Russia wins the “lets get out of town” game

The bronze medal game at the World Junior Championships is always a hard sell, to the fans and the players, for while it’s nice to get a medal and all of that, really bronze for most is like saying we’re just happy to be here.

The game is one that teams have a problem getting up for, the flow sometimes resembles a practice that has gone on too long and you get the feeling that they all would just prefer to play no stop time, just to get the thing over.

With that the under card of the Championship Saturday in Pardubice took place, with the Russians getting out to an early lead and coasting on to a 4-2 victory over an American squad that seems to have spent all they had in yesterday’s grudge match with the northern neighbours.

The Russians jumped out to a 4-0 lead and you sensed that the Americans really had nothing left to offer, they gamely recaptured two goals for appearances and then perhaps with relief welcomed the final horn and the much desired need to get back home and on to other tasks.

It’s part of the culture of hockey in North America that if you don’t win the championship, the gold medal or whatever trophy is up for grabs, then there’s nothing left for you. The consolation prizes are nice, but in the end they end up as classy looking paperweights.

After such a remarkable tournament which saw them go undefeated until the Canadian game, the Americans will leave not with memories of a great run, but instead of a hard to swallow loss to a long time rival on Friday.

While the Russians probably appreciate the concept of the bronze a bit better, they too must be a little disappointed in the final standings. Though having seen the Swedes play as hard as they did in this tournament, even the Russian hockey bureaucrats must admit that the actual final standings probably reflect the quality of each teams play in the top four.

The Russians have some work to do, they are not as dominant as they once were and there are certainly some issues that they need to address to get back on track in world competition.

For the Americans the measuring stick will always be the game they play against their neighbours, win against Canada and it probably doesn’t matter where you finish in the tournament. Lose against them though and there’s little left to work for, as always it seems the competitive fires burns best when there is something to fight for.

The game for a bronze medal while celebrated as a measure of success isn’t something that can be used as a motivating factor, instead it’s more of a reminder of how close that a team came and how far away they ended up when the awards were handed out.

Canadian Press--Russia wins bronze medals to Russia

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