Monday, September 19, 2016

A team called Albert continues to shine, While Russia holds off the charge of the young guns

Day Three of the World Cup of Hockey followed two of the more intriguing stories of the tournament so far, as Team Europe and Team North America both squared off against opponents with results that indicate that both may be planning to stick around the Air Canada Centre for a while yet.

The early game featured Team Europe taking on the Czech Republic squad, the European congregation gathered from the index of the European Atlas of smaller countries calls to mind the old Canadian Tire commercial.

That little piece of Canadiana where young Albert who in his early days would frequently be the final player selected as sides were picked, grows into the player that every coach wishes he had on his roster.

So far in this tournament it is the wandering bedouins of Team Europe that most resembles Team Albert.

Such it seems is the narrative for Team Europe so far in the tournament, hardly considered in the pre tournament discussion, then now are becoming one of the main talking points as they find ways to win.

The team of vagabonds that has quickly meshed in a most impressive fashion taking win number two in the tournament with a 3-2 victory over the Czech Republic. Led by Leon Draisaitl who picked up his second goal of the tournament during 3 on 3 play in the Overtime, the Europeans continue to make their mark in a tournament that at times seems to have considered them to be the back end of a hockey draft when you're just throwing darts on a board to see who might stick.

Playing a game of speed with pinpoint passing, they have already caused much discomfort for the teams they have played and even for one that they haven't, with their win on Monday, the Europeans quickly turned Tuesday's Canada/USA match up as a must win for the Americans if they have any desire towards playing into tournament beyond the weekend.

While the Europeans were relishing their status as the surprise of the tourney, the other bookend of the  most discussed club of the tournament were squaring off against a most formidable foe, as the youngsters of Team North America prepared  to drop the puck with the always dangerous Russian squad.

And for the first twenty minutes, it looked as though the youngsters legs and enthusiasm was going to claim another victim as the Russians look much like they did against the Swedes for the majority of Game one, lethargic and at times baffled as to how they should tackle the energy of their opponents.

Toronto hockey fans got a glimpse of what their NHL future might bring as Maple Leafs prospect Auston Matthews picked up his first goal of the tourney, sending the youngsters to the dressing room up 1-0 after one period of play and if not for the stellar goal tending of Sergei Bobrovsky it could have been a much larger gap.

The Russian goaltender, who for the most part was all but abandoned by his defensive corps held the Russians in this thing through a flurry of scoring opportunities over the first thirty minutes of play, scoring chances that would in the end come to haunt Team North America by the games end.

The Russians finally rose from their on ice slumber midway through the second period and when they did, it was a full on attack on the North American end of the rink, with the Russians scoring four goals in less than ten minutes, a second period onslaught that left the youngsters of North America just a little off balance and in the end chased Matt Murray from the game, relieved perhaps more as a move for confidence by Todd McLellan, though both Murray and the defence in front of him looked shaky during that flurry of Russian scoring.

To their credit and more importantly of some interest for the head coach, the North Americans did not get rattled by the show of Russian offence, chipping away at the lead with one goal in the final minutes of the second frame and then continuing with that momentum in the third period pulling to within one goal four minutes into the final period.

That set the stage for some fascinating and frantic hockey through the remainder of the third period as the North Americans put a big league push on the Russians, rattling shot after shot at Bobrovsky, coming close to scoring a number of times. In the end though, the goaltenders skill and just a wee bit of luck worked to deny what would have been a most amazing comeback.

By the time the final shot had been directed towards the Russian net, Bobrovsky had faced 46 shots and surrendered only three goals as the Russians brought their tournament record to .500 after two games.

With their comeback coming up just a bit short the North Americans however served notice that they won't be intimidated, nor surrender to panic when the going gets tough, the prime time match up of Tuesday offering the most entertaining hockey of the tournament so far and left fans waiting to see what it brings for the young ones when they take to the ice next.

You can find the game summaries and media notes on the Day Two Results on our Game Day Archive for Monday.

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