Sunaya Sapurji

  • Kelowna's Nick Merkley proves cream rises to the top for NHL draft

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — At the hotel for the 2015 Top Prospects Game, Nick Merkley went on a scouting mission. He wasn’t looking to gain insights into Thursday night’s opposition – Team Cherry in this case – or for anything that would give him an on ice advantage playing in the showcase featuring the best young NHL draft prospects in the Canadian Hockey League.


    What he was desperate to find was something far sweeter: An ice cream sandwich.

    This season those cold treats have become an integral part of his pre-game ritual prior to home games with his Kelowna Rockets. Merkley said he once forgot to eat one and had a rough game, so he wanted to make sure he had one at the ready for the big game.

    These are the capricious thoughts of teenage hockey stars.

    “It’s probably not the best thing to have,” said Merkley with a smile, noting the Oreo are his favourite among ice cream sandwiches. “It’s working so far.”

    Only recently, the Rockets made a pair of blockbuster deals to bring in star defenceman Josh Morrissey, who won gold with Team Canada, and standout forward Leon Draisaitl, who had been with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

    “To be able to see how they train off the ice is huge,” he said.

  • Canada bent but wouldn't break in reclaiming the world junior hockey championship

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 22 days ago

    Long before the game started fans were outside the Air Canada Centre in eager anticipation. It was a night that Canada had been dreaming about since last winning gold in 2009. It was the night their world junior championship drought ended.

    It was a tense 5-4 victory over Russia which saw Canada take a four-goal lead only to watch it slowly evaporate. Many still remembered the collapse of 2011 in Buffalo when the Russians came back from a three-goal deficit to steal the gold in front of many Canadian fans that had made the trek across the border. But as the seconds dwindled and final buzzer went Monday night there was nothing left for the Russians to do except accept defeat amid the chaos on the ice. Sticks and gloves littered the ice as players took turns jumping into each other’s arms.

    The crowd of 19,014 at the Air Canada Centre, who had been raucous all game, went absolutely wild.

    “My ears are still ringing a little bit from it,” said Team Canada captain Curtis Lazar. “It was awesome. They love their hockey and so do we. Knowing that we had their support throughout the good and the bad was incredible.”

    “It’s the best moment right now.”

    “But for tonight, let’s just enjoy this.”

  • World Junior 2015: Fans looking for golden ticket will have to pay small fortune

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 23 days ago

    Monday night's gold medal game between Canada and Russia has all the makings of another world junior classic. And, as a result, people are looking to cash in on the hype.

    The final game of the 2015 world junior championship in Toronto has become a hot ticket as Canada looks to claim gold for the first time since 2009. Fans are also eager to witness their two-year medal drought end, so they're willing to pay for prime seats.

    Outside the Air Canada Centre on Monday afternoon after Benoit Groulx had announced Zach Fucale would start for the Canadian side, scalpers were already out looking for buyers.

    How much are tickets going for?

    "From $500 to $1,000," said one scalper.

    For one ticket? Or a pair?

    He laughed. "One ticket."

    Prices weren't much better on secondary ticket sites like StubHub. Early Monday afternoon, for the gold medal game, tickets on the site ranged from $318 for a standing room only (no alcohol section) ticket to $1,900 for a lower bowl seat - Row 10 - in the corner behind the net.

    “I was really surprised,” Fasel said, of ticket costs. “If you would have done this pricing in Europe, you would have nobody in the arena.”

  • All signs point to another Canada-Russia classic in world junior hockey championship finale

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 23 days ago

    It has all the makings of another classic game in the long, rich hockey history between Canada and Russia. The grand daddy of them all, the 1972 Summit Series, happened more than two decades before the players skating in the final of the 2015 world junior championship were even born.

    For this group of teenagers, it might as well be ancient history. Their touchstones are far more recent. Talk to the Canadians and they will regale you with tales of Jordan Eberle in 2009. How they cheered when he scored the game-tying goal with 5.4 seconds on the clock in Ottawa to force an eventual shootout victory over Russia.

    “You have to look back to Jordan Eberle and his heroics in the semifinal,” said Canada’s captain Curtis Lazar. “Every time these teams meet – there’s also that epic comeback by the Russians – so it goes both ways and that’s what happens when you have two powerhouses going at it.”

    That epic comeback, the Russians will remind you, was in 2011 when Artemi Panarin scored twice to rally them from a three-goal deficit in the third period to steal gold in Buffalo.

    “Everybody was watching that,” said Russian forward Ivan Barbashev of Russia’s last golden moment.


  • World Junior 2015: Swiss bliss as Germans sent packing in relegation final

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 25 days ago

    Switzerland sent Germany packing to Group A Division I by sweeping their best-of-three series with a 5-2 victory. The Swiss had come close to making the quarter-finals but were undone by a shootout loss to Denmark. The Danes ended up advancing, only to lose 8-0 to Team Canada on Friday night.

    “The difference between the quarter-finals and the relegation round was one goal – the overtime shootout loss to Denmark,” said Swiss head coach John Fust. “It’s invaluable experience. We have the youngest team in the tournament; we’re a core of (1996 and ’97 birth years). There’s no other team that had as few (19-year-old’s) as us and it was a bit of a gamble, but that’s the best we have for such a small nation.”

    Belarus, who won the Group A Division I tournament in Italy this year, will take Germany’s place at the 2016 world junior championship in Helsinki, Finland.

    Pius Suter, who plays for the OHL’s Guelph Storm, had a pair of goals for Switzerland while Jason Fuchs, Denis Malgin and Timo Meier added singles.

    Andreas Eder and Parker Tuomie score for the Germans, who were winless throughout the tournament.

  • World Junior 2015: Canada's 'wake-up call' helps Slovakia return for rematch in semifinal

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 25 days ago

    After Canada embarrassed Slovakia in the opening game of the world junior championship in Montreal last week, the Slovaks held a meeting.

    Star forward Martin Reway told the media he was “embarrassed” after the 8-0 loss as a third-year forward. Whatever was said afterwards worked, as the Slovaks rebounded with important victories over defending champions Finland and rival Czech Republic to advance to the semifinal.

    “Canada woke us up,” said Slovakian coach Ernest Bokros, through an interpreter. “That was our wake-up call and since then we’re playing well.”

    Bokros said playing against Canada, the home team in Montreal, in a building packed with more than 14,000 rabid fans in the Bell Centre left his team starry-eyed. Now he says, they’ve become accustomed to the big arena and loud fans, which is good because facing Canada in the semifinals at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Sunday will be no different.

    “The opener against Canada for most players was the first big game at such a big tournament so we hope that they experienced the atmosphere and everything, “said Bokros. “They are looking forward to play Canada tomorrow.

    “I think we moved forward and the players are better every game.”

  • Zach Fucale uses power of positivity as Canada concentrates on world junior gold

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 25 days ago

    Zach Fucale spent a lot of time on the ice as a kid.

    He started out in speed skating. After each of his hour-long sessions was over, he and his dad Jack would walk past the rink where the hockey would be taking place. There, standing on the tips of his toes, he would look over the boards to watch the play unfold.

    Then, one day, he finally decided: "Daddy, I want to play hockey."

    For Jack Fucale, who had grown up in Montreal as a diehard Canadiens fan, it was an easy sell. His wife Catherine, however, needed some convincing. When she eventually relented, Zach was signed up and started playing as a forward.

    "He would automatically go and stand between the two orange cones the coaches put down and try to stop the puck," said Jack. "He would just play goalie."

    In Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, it was Fucale making 14 saves in a very light night of work against the Danes.

    "It's certainly not easy,” said Fucale of the downtime during the game. "You have to make sure you stay sharp for your team , you never know if that one shot is going to go in and change the game.

    "The NHL, the Montreal Canadiens? We couldn’t even imagine it."

  • World junior darlings Denmark prepared to give it their all in quarterfinal game against Team Canada

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 26 days ago

    Prior to coming to North America for the world junior championship, Denmark's George Sorensen had played in a total of two games.

    With his hometown team in the top Danish league, the Herning Blue Fox, the 19-year-old is the backup goaltender. Since he doesn't get a lot of work, he has to make the most of the few chances he gets. There was the World Jr. A Challenge in Kindersley, Sask., in the week leading up to the world junior championship, where Sorensen helped Denmark claim silver.

    Here in Toronto at the world's premiere junior tournament, Sorensen has received his biggest opportunity to date and he has quickly become a fan favourite by backstopping the unlikely Danes to a quarterfinal berth.

    "It has been more than excellent," said head coach Olaf Eller of Sorensen's play. "He has been exactly the guy who has kept us in games. It has been terrific what he's been doing for us."

    "So expect a scenario that is crazy."

  • McDavid vs. Eichel plays second fiddle to another Canada-U.S. world junior classic on New Year’s Eve

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 28 days ago

    MONTREAL - The buildup for Canada’s game against the U.S. had started long before the two teams had taken the ice.

    It began to ramp up back in the summer when both teams opened training camps in Brossard, Que., and Lake Placid, N.Y. There the focus was on Canada’s Connor McDavid, the top-ranked player for the 2015 NHL draft, and America’s Jack Eichel, the player trying to usurp him next June at the NHL entry draft.

    At stake in the game was top spot in Group A of the World Junior Hockey Championship and the chance to face the underdogs from Denmark. A 5-3 victory for Canada on New Year’s Eve means the young, upstart Danes will have their hands full trying to contain an offence that came at the U.S. in wave after wave - occasionally crashing upon the crease of goalie Thatcher Demko.

    The loss puts the Americans up against Russia in the other quarter-final, giving the U.S. a much more dangerous foe.

    “They just played physical,” said Eichel of the Canadians. “That’s the way they’re going to play, so you got to battle through it.

  • World Junior 2015: Germans 'sad' as report has Oilers returning Draisaitl to junior

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 29 days ago

    MONTREAL — The Edmonton Oilers have certainly made a fine mess of things.

    According to a report from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector the NHL team is expected to return talented German centre Leon Draisaitl back to junior in the Western Hockey League.

    Draisaitl, 19, has played in 39 NHL games and has two goals and five assists. The native of Cologne, Germany would have been eligible to play for Germany at the 2015 world junior championship, but the Oilers decided to keep him. After the decision was made, Draisaitl was a healthy scratch.

    "When we first contacted them the situation in Edmonton was a little different," said German coach Pat Cortina, adding their talks with Edmonton were cordial. "I understood their way of thinking then. I guess it's too bad it wasn't like this when we first asked.

    "In hindsight it's unfortunate. He definitely would have helped us, it would have been nice to have him ... but we can't change that. We don't have him here now and we won't have him here tomorrow." 

    Germany plays Finland, also winless, on Wednesday night.