Rivalry Renewed at 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge
By Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood)
The Stanley Cup Final is almost two months behind us, 211 players were selected at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and the NHL Free Agency has been pricked and prodded of talent, leaving us puck fans with little to be excited about in August, especially as another NHL lockout looms with CBA negotiations at a standstill.
Luckily for us hockey junkies, August marks a time to appreciate the up-and-coming generation of NHL future stars as World Junior evaluation camps and Ivan Hlinka tournaments are front and center.
August features a rare international event that everyone in the hockey world should be tuned into. 40 years ago, September signaled a time in hockey’s history that will be imprinted on our game forever. In 1972, Canada assembled a group of talent including mostly professional hockey players to face off against a Soviet squad made up of amateurs in an eight-game series. It became one of the most heated exhibitions in the game’s history, setting up a rivalry between two proud hockey nations that has lasted well over four decades.
Today, August 9, two teams were assembled of Canadian and Russian top prospects under age 20 to face off in a four-game series to commemorate the historical 1972 Summit Series, and the result of Game One certainly did not disappoint.
Historically, Canada-Russia matches have never lacked emotion or excitement, and one does not have to look too far into the past for evidence.
At the 2012 World Junior Championships in Alberta, Canada was being shellacked by the Russians in the gold medal game, trailing 6-1 midway through the third period before the Canadians started their late surge. With four unanswered goals, Canada closed Russia’s lead to 6-5 in under five minutes, putting the Russians on their heels and all of Canada on the edge of their seats, anticipating one of the greatest comebacks in history. The setting was reminiscent of the 2011 World Juniors when Russia scored five unanswered goals in the third period to steal gold from Canada.
Unfortunately for Canada in 2012, their late game surge was not enough to overcome the huge deficit, but it certainly provided the excitement we have come to expect of these Canada-Russia matchups.
Skating with passion and their nation’s colours draped over their shoulders, NHL-drafted players such as Nail Yakupov (Edmonton Oilers, 1st overall in 2012), Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers, 3rd overall in 2011), Mikhail Grigorenko (Buffalo Sabres, 12th overall in 2012), and Dougie Hamilton (Boston Bruins, 9th overall in 2011) lined up across from each other. The puck dropped in Yaroslavl, Russia for Game One, and these youngsters quickly realized their childhood dreams of representing their countries internationally.
In the opening period of Game One, Canada and Russia battled in a scoreless frame as both goaltenders Malcolm Subban (Boston Bruins, 23rd in 2012), and Andrei Vasilevski (Tampa Bay Lightning, 19th in 2012), stood tall between the pipes. It took more than 23 minutes of play until Sean Monahan (2013 draft eligible) of Canada snapped the scoreless tie in the second period as he wired a wrist-shot over the glove of Vasilevski. Less than two minutes later, defenseman Scott Harrington (Pittsburgh Penguins, 2nd round in 2011) threw the puck on net beating the Russian net-minder low glove to extend Canada’s lead to 2-0. The Russian crowd remained loud and the noise escalated as Anton Slepyshev (undrafted) pounced on a deflection to quickly snap a shot over the outstretched Malcolm Subban narrowing the lead to one goal and sending the hometown crowd into frenzy.
Canada and Russia continued to exchange offensive surges as both teams looked to capitalize on the mistakes that occur in high-pressure games and as the minutes expired in the second period, the 2012 Canadian Hockey League’s top defenseman Dougie Hamilton (Boston Bruins, 9th in 2011) beat Vasilevski to give Canada a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Russia regrouped after forty minutes to take the ice for the third period, led by superstar forward and Russian captain Nail Yakupov. The future Oilers’ star played the final twenty-minutes possessed as he danced around the ice creating countless offensive chances for the Russian squad. The dynamic Yakupov would make his presence felt during a Russian power play. In typical Yakupov fashion, the left-handed winger set up on his off-wing waiting for his one-timer. The electric Yakupov did not have to wait long as Mikhail Grigorenko moved the puck to Tampa Bay Lightning defensive prospect Artyom Sergeyev who quickly sent it to Yakupov. Before Malcolm Subban could blink, Yakupov had fired the puck into the mesh behind the athletic Canadian goaltender. Russia trailed by just one goal.
With time an issue for Russia, their offensive attack intensified but due to the strong play of Malcolm Subban and the defensemen in front of him, Canada survived the Russian attack to win Game One 3-2. Despite the loss, the hometown Russian crowd had plenty to be proud of, as the game had elements every hockey game should – emotion, passion, and drive.
Prior to the start of the game, Russia and Canada honored the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl KHL club with a tribute. With connections to both nations, the players exemplified the emotion and passion one would expect after a touching ceremony, and the City of Yaroslavl were the benefactors of this display of passion and skill in Game One.
Rossy’s Impressive Players in Game One (Canada): Malcolm Subban (BOS; named Player of the Game), Dougie Hamilton (BOS), Mark Scheifele (WPG), Lukas Sutter (WPG), Charles Hudon (MTL), Boone Jenner (CBJ), Sean Monahan (2013 draft eligible)
Rossy’s Impressive Players in Game One (Russia): Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF), Nail Yakupov (EDM), Artyom Sergeyev (TBL), Anton Slepyshev (undrafted; passed over in 2012 draft), Alexei Vasilevski (2013 draft eligible)
Game Two (Yaroslavl, RUS) – Friday, August 10th @ 10 am EST (TSN2)
Game Three (Halifax, CAN) – Monday, August 13th @ 6:30 pm EST (TSN)
Game Four (Halifax, CAN) – Tuesday, August 14th @ 6:30 pm EST (TSN)
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