Evaluation camp takeaway
Evaluation camp takeaway
Every team learned—now comes the hard part
The Americans dropped Canada in a convincing 5-1 win before an impressive crowd that numbered about 2,000.
Teams now head home and do the paperwork on the week’s play as a way of further preparations for the final World Junior Championship starting Boxing Day in Toronto and Montreal. Herewith a synopsis of each country’s performance.
Coach Dominque Ducharme has his work to do. Canada lost all three of its game by a cumulative 12-3 score, and there wasn’t much to admire save the incredible vision and passing ability of Mitch Marner.
“You always play to win, but we can’t be disappointed with execution,” Ducharme rationalized. “That comes with time, with playing together. In one week, it’s hard to get. It’s a long process. We’re building something long term not for one week in August. That’s how we see it.
“Our guys learned about what we wanted to do, how we want to do things,” the coach continued. “They have to buy into that. It’s important for our guys to see the pace of the game from three good teams, how thin is the margin between winning and losing at this level. We’ll build on what we’ve done and be ready in December.”
Ducharme knows the ability of his experienced players but was keen to watch the newcomers. “The younger guys realize how fast the pace is, the intensity and speed and execution that you need at this level. Some adjusted well, and for others it will take longer. We’ll see how they react when they go back to their club teams.”
After blowing a 3-0 lead and losing to the Americans, 4-3, the Swedes responded with a sound 5-1 win over Canada and a 3-2 shootout win over Finland last night. To the good, the veteran players played like stars, but coach Tomas Monten might not have them at the WJC if they make the NHL this October.
“Our players showed that they want t be in Montreal,” Monten began. “Our experienced players led the way. I think it’s easier to go from a small rink to a big rink, so I think if we bring players who can skate and handle the puck, we’ll do well on the smaller ice.
The Swedes seemed to get better as the tournament progressed, a good sign for December. “We had a great camp last week before the games started to get a feel for things, our timing, the facilities. We played really good teams and played well. We’re happy. A lot of the younger guys made a really good impression. Guys like Jonathan Davidsson came out strong, and we had a couple of new defencemen who also played well. I think I have a tougher job now, but that’s a good thing.”
Suomi was a shot away from going undefeated but couldn’t score in the shootout against Sweden and had to settle for a record of two wins and a loss. It had two close 2-1 wins over the North Americans, impressive given that the vast majority of the roster is comprised of 17-year-olds who aren’t draft eligible until 2017.
“I’m not surprised we played well,” coach Jukka Rautakorpi said. “The exhibition games that we played last Sunday and Monday really helped us. We talked to the boys and went through videos and had some practice time and talked about how we had to play. I liked our commitment and discipline this week.”
Playing at home, the U.S. showed speed and creativity with the puck despite the beautiful summer weather of the off-season. They showed character in erasing a 3-0 Sweden lead to win, 4-3, and a 2-1 loss to Finland could have gone either way. They finished with a rock solid 5-1 win against the Canadians.
“It was an excellent week,” coach Bob Motzko enthused. “This is a big, big part of the process. You can’t hide from it. But this is summer hockey, and we have to remember that. We have to stay true to our program. Some guys might not have had a good week in the middle of the summer. We have to honour that. This week we had quality young men who were here for the team, not individual play. That to me was the greatest sign.”
The American roster included an impressive six players drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. This is a deep and talented pool, and if oddsmakers were to throw down a line now, the Americans would surely be favourites to win gold.
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