Sunaya Sapurji

  • Benoit Groulx guided by passion, parents from Gatineau to world juniors

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    Benoit Groulx’s head coaching journey began at a Tim Hortons in his hometown of Gatineau, Que. It was there that he met with Charlie Henry, the then-owner and general manager of the Olympiques.

    After an 11-year pro hockey playing career in Europe, Groulx had returned home to become an assistant coach with the Quebec Major Junior League’s Shawinigan Cataractes. He was in his second season as an assistant when Henry came calling in 2000-2001.

    “Are you ready to coach?” asked Henry.

    There was slight apprehension. Groulx wasn’t sure.

    His response was, “I guess so. Yes.”

    “If you’re half as tough as your dad was, we’ll be fine with you in Gatineau,” said Henry.

    That conversation was 14 years and three QMJHL championships ago.

    Henry was very familiar with his new coach, having been a close friend of Groulx’s father, the late Gilles Groulx. A larger-than-life character with a strong personality and a penchant for the game, Gilles was a fixture in the local QMJHL scene.

    The elder Groulx coached minor hockey for a stint alongside Pat Burns and included on his roster at one time or another were the likes of New York Rangers GM Alain Vigneault and Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien.

  • World Junior 2015 Preview: Denmark makes case to avoid relegation

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 3 days ago

    GROUP B: DENMARK 2014 finish: Promoted to top division 2014 round-robin record Division I (Group A): 5-0-0-0, 20 GF/10 GA

    Yahoo! Canada Sports has asked North American-based players, some of whom are playing in the world junior championship, to break down their national teams.

    If ever there was a time for Denmark to make a splash at the world junior championship - this is it. This is the third time the Danes have made an appearance in the top-tier - the last time being the 2011 tournament in Edmonton and Calgary. This time, however, Denmark is looking to stay, and they have their best chance in years to do it.

    The Danes have six players who are currently playing their hockey in the CHL, including Portland Winterhawks star Oliver Bjorkstrand, Memorial Cup champion Mads Eller and Halifax Mooseheads forward Nikolaj Ehlers - arguably one of the best players in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

    "It's amazing to see how good our chemistry is," said Ehlers. "I think that's why in the last two years we have been able to move up and win the world juniors twice in the B Division. It's going to be a good time, but it's going to be tough."

     

  • Team Canada maks final cuts in preparation for 2015 world juniors

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 6 days ago

    Team Canada’s final cuts came late Friday night as four players – three forwards and one defenceman – were shuttled out of the team hotel and back home.

    Cut from the world junior team were forwards Michael Dal Colle of the Oshawa Generals, Rourke Chartier of the Kelowna Rockets and Jason Dickinson of the Guelph Storm. Haydn Fleury of the Red Deer Rebels was the single cut on the blueline to bring Canada down to 22 players for the start of the tournament on Dec. 26 against Slovakia.

    On Wednesday the Ottawa Senators released rookie forward Curtis Lazar, 19, to play for Canada meaning one less spot for the 25 players who had been in camp prior to his arrival.

    "We've been talking about this for the last couple of days," said Canada's head coach Benoit Groulx. "We came to the conclusion that it was time to get our team together with the addition of Curtis yesterday. We feel that we're all set to announce our team so that's why we decided to make our decision tonight."

    "It's disappointing."

  • Senators loan Curtis Lazar to Team Canada for world juniors

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 8 days ago

    It was the best gift Team Canada could have hoped for heading into the world junior championship. On Thursday the Ottawa Senators announced they would be releasing 19-year-old forward Curtis Lazar to play in the 10-day tournament.

    “We're excited about our group (of players) to begin with and when you can add another piece it just solidifies a few things for us," said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations for Hockey Canada. "A guy with his pedigree having won (a Memorial Cup with the Edmonton Oil Kings) and a guy we see as a leader with his experience of being in the tournament last year - when you put all those things together you can't help but be excited." 

    As one of Canada’s most versatile and dependable forwards during the tournament last year in Malmo, Sweden, the loan is most welcome as Team Canada looks to win its first medal since 2012 and first gold since 2009.

    According to Salmond, Lazar will join the team tomorrow in Toronto, but will not play in Friday night's exhibition game against Russia at the Air Canada Centre. He's expected to be in the lineup for Canada's tuneup against Sweden on Dec. 21 in Ottawa.

  • Team Canada remains 'optimistic' about getting Lazar on loan

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 9 days ago

    ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Until Hockey Canada hears the word no from the Ottawa Senators they’ll continue to hold out hope for Curtis Lazar.

    The Ottawa Senators rookie, who scored his first NHL goal on Monday night, is the last remaining pro player Team Canada has a shot at getting for the 2015 world junior championship. Lazar played on the team last year and was one of the team’s most dependable, versatile forwards.

    “The fact that they haven’t said no right now is at least encouraging,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations for Hockey Canada. “We remain optimistic. We think that Curtis could be a huge part of this team and obviously being here last year and being a proven winner with his club team. At the end of the day (the Senators) are no different than us – they’re in the business of winning hockey games.”

    Lazar, who won the Memorial Cup in May with his Edmonton Oil Kings, was one of the top scorers with his junior team finishing last season with 41 goals and 76 points in 58 WHL games.

    “It’s disappointing, we were really optimistic with Bo,” said Salmond. “I think ultimately the injury to (forward Zack) Kassian was probably the determining factor for them.”

  • Connor McDavid gets green light for contact in practice with Team Canada

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 10 days ago

     

    ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — The yellow jersey is gone. Instead, on Monday afternoon, Connor McDavid wore a white practice sweater like his other teammates.

    The 17-year-old junior star has been cleared for contact which meant he was able to fully participate in drills at Team Canada’s selection camp.

    The change came some five weeks after he broke a small bone in his right hand during a fight in an OHL game on Nov. 11. Even though McDavid received the go - ahead for contact, his teammates looked like they were holding back slightly when it came to jostling with the star centre.

    “I think when they see him they want to make sure they don’t hit him on his glove,” said Team Canada coach Benoit Groulx after practice at the Meridian Centre. “They’ve got to be careful, but overall I thought the guys went pretty hard.”

    It’s no surprise Canada’s players sided with a little caution when it came to McDavid – he’s the projected top pick for the 2015 NHL draft and is considered by many to be a generational hockey talent. To put it bluntly, he’s the golden ticket at the 2015 world junior championship and everyone knows it.

  • Showtime: Jake Virtanen brings his A game to Team Canada's selection camp

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    Jake Virtanen has earned a new nickname in camp: Showtime .

    His teammates were razzing the first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks after Virtanen recorded six points in two exhibition games at Team Canada’s selection camp this weekend.

    “The guys were just giving it to each other in the room, ‘Oh, you’re showtime’ and stuff like that,” said Virtanen with a smile. “(Teammate Morgan) Klimchuk was giving it to me after the game today.”

    He’s making up for lost time after shoulder surgery sidelined him at Canada’s summer camp and caused him to miss the start of the Western Hockey League season with the Calgary Hitmen.

    “That definitely hurt me a little bit,” said Virtanen. “Not participating in (summer camp) was tough and a little frustrating, but coming into this I knew I really had to show my stuff and especially in the Subway Series. That was huge for me because I had to show the coaching staff and the whole staff that I definitely wanted to be on this team and that I would do anything to be on it.”

    Still, the decision was a difficult one, said Team Canada head coach Benoit Groulx.

    If looping was an issue, Virtanen seemed to have kicked the habit in exhibition.

  • Canada, Fucale off to 'good start' in first game of selection camp

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 12 days ago

    If Team Canada’s head coach Benoit Groulx was looking for a tight game to help weed out potential world junior cuts, he didn’t find it on Saturday night. Team Canada easily handled a team of local university players by way of a 10-3 blowout.

    The scoring was spread out though Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri scored twice. In total, Canada had 16 different players find their name on the final scoresheet. At the world juniors last year in Malmo, Sweden, getting consistent scoring was a problem for Canada – particularly from the top two lines – so players finding the back of the net bodes well.

    “We want to be a four line team obviously,” said Groulx. “It’s nice to see that everybody is contributing offensively tonight and it’s the kind of team we went to be. We want to go out there and establish our pace and the way we play. I was very happy with many, many guys tonight.”

    There were defensive turnovers, but Groulx said that was to be expected considering the defencemen in camp have had very little time to get acclimatized to one another.

    Goaltender Zach Fucale is one of the few players on the team with job security. The 19-year-old made 23 saves in his first test with Canada.

  • Canada's once wounded hope to shake off rust in world junior camp

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    At Team Canada’s world junior summer camp in Brossard, Que., Jake Virtanen skated alone. He was still rehabbing after shoulder surgery and no chances were being taken with his health. There was a malaise in the way he put pucks in the net by himself after the rest of the team had left the ice. It’s a different story now that he’s healed and able to skate with full-contact in Canada’s final selection camp in Toronto. “It’s definitely a great feeling,” said Virtanen after his first practice with the team at the MasterCard Centre. “It’s good to get back because it was frustrating and depressing that I couldn’t be out there (in the summer) having fun with the guys on the ice. I’m just thankful to be back.” In the months that passed, Virtanen was finally healed enough to start playing for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen. The 18-year-old forward was able to suit up for 20 WHL games before camp. He admits his return has been tough because he’s had to correct a few “bad habits” that have crept into his game while trying to get into game shape. “I’m still trying to get back into my groove,” said the first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks. “I’m really trying hard to remove those habits like looping – just kind of skate by the puck and not stop – that’s one of the main things I’m trying to focus on.” At camp there are five players – Virtanen, Samuel Morin (fractured jaw), Morgan Klimchuk (wrist), Nick Baptiste (shoulder), and Shea Theodore (elbow) - who are healthy now, but missed significant time this season due to injuries. Connor McDavid, who broke his hand in a fight on Nov. 11, is the only player at camp still on the mend skating in practice with a yellow non-contact jersey. In Morin’s case, he has only played in 12 games this year for the Rimouski Oceanic and seven since returning from surgery. The defenceman needed screws and metal plates to stabilize his decimated jaw after he was hit by a Cody Donaghey slap shot during an Oct. 12 game against Quebec. “It was a one-timer right in the face,” Morin said. “He missed the net pretty hard.” It’s been a long, three month recovery and he’s still required to wear a full face-shield for another few weeks. To be thrown into a high-intensity camp like this has been a challenge. “Sure, it’s hard,” said the 6-foot-7, 225-pound behemoth on Friday. “But I worked a lot with my junior team to be in shape and now I’m just trying to do my best here.” Team Canada head coach Benoit Groulx and head scout Ryan Jankowski have said that they’re looking for a big, skilled team and both Morin and Virtanen, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound power forward, most definitely fit the bill. Morin has the bonus of having played against Groulx’s Gatineau team in the past, including the 2013 QMJHL playoffs where the Olympiques defeated the Oceanic in six games. “I played against him in the playoffs and I think I played pretty well,” said Morin. “So for sure it helps but I still need to have a good camp here.” The only question is whether he’ll be hindered by missing time through injury. But it’s not all bad. Jankowski believes that while there’s nothing good in being hurt, it’s still not all negative when it comes to a short, intense camp leading into the pressure-packed world junior tournament. “I look at it as an advantage from our standpoint because they’re a little more rested,” said Jankowski. “The top 19-year-old and the top 18-year-old players, they play so much. They get so much ice time, it’s nice that they get a little bit of a rest and it’s obviously different circumstances with an injury. … They’re back enough that they can shake out the rust before we really have to get in and get to this level.” This is particularly true for McDavid, who has been under intense scrutiny since joining the OHL’s Erie Otters as a 15-year-old. The break might have given him a little mental and physical respite from the daily junior hockey grind. If there’s any consolation for the others, it’s that many of them have received additional viewings prior to being invited to camp. Jankowski said he was able to see both Virtanen and Klimchuk after they returned and Groulx, said he was able to see Morin play in his second game back from injury. “It always depends on how they react,” said Groulx. “When you look at Jake Virtanen I thought he had a good Subway series, he played well and he played with pace and so far he’s been good on the ice with us here. “(Morin) the report we have on him here is that he’s doing well and he seems to be in good shape here and in a good frame of mind, so so far it seems like everybody is feeling good about themselves and they feel confident and this is what we like to see.”

  • Wanted: World-class players committed to ending the medal drought for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    Every year, when many Canadians are trying to find time for Christmas shopping and trying to forget the credit card bills that will accompany it, the coaches and support staff for the Canadian world junior hockey team come up with a mantra – or two. They then take those catch-phrases and foist them onto the media to disseminate to the country’s hockey faithful.

    In the past, we’ve had the hard-working lunch pail kids of Dave Cameron, Steve Spott’s team built for speed, and Brent Sutter droning over the elite group assembled to play the Canadian way last year in Malmo, Sweden.

    True to form, this is the year of head coach Benoit Groulx’s world-class player. According to Groulx, who coaches the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Gatineau Olympiques, it’s no longer enough to be just a good player in the Canadian Hockey League to make this team.

    So what separates the world class from the run-of-the-mill star players in the CHL?

    “It’s also about their attitude,” Groulx said Thursday at the opening of Canada’s final selection camp in Toronto. “Can they block shots? Can they forecheck hard? Can they track hard? Can they make the big plays when it matters the most?