December 30, 2009
In the media protocol memo from Hockey Canada on covering the Team Canada Olympic announcement, we were informed that none of the Olympians would be available for comment after the announcement.
However, one could find two Olympians at the Credit Union Centre afterwards, as Luca Sbisa(notes) and Roman Josi were named to Team Switzerland early in the day. While Sbisa sat out with an upper body injury, the lesser-known Josi stepped up.
No. 1 Star: Roman Josi, D, Switzerland
Before the 19-year-old Nashville Predators draft pick skates against the best players in the world in Vancouver, he had to help Team Switzerland earn their first victory at the U20 tournament against Latvia. The crafty blueliner sparked a lackluster Switzerland attack, finding soft spots in the Latvian defense and solving their neutral zone trap. With his team trailing 4-3 heading into the third, he helped set up Nino Niederreiter's game tying power play goal by moving off the point and in front of the net. He followed the same pattern on his goal early in the second, moving into the high slot from his point position. Inheriting the captaincy with Sbisa out of the lineup, Josi led the team to a 7-5 victory that keeps Switzerland's chances of reaching the medal round very much alive.
No. 2 Star: Jyri Niemi, D, Finland
It wasn't the prettiest win in the world, but pretty isn't Niemi's game anyway. In their 10-1 rout of the Austrians, Niemi, a draft pick of the New York Islanders, scored twice and added two assists. All of his points were obtained on the power play, where he used his booming shot to his advantage. The Finnish captain, and current Saskatoon Blade, looked right at home on Regina's Brandt Centre ice, where he's used to being a visitor. He led all players with seven shots on goal.
No. 3 Star: Ronalds Kenins, F, Latvia
It was another loss for the Latvians, but the team showed a lot of pop offensively in their loss to Switzerland. The team scored five times on Swiss goaltender Benjamin Conz, who had held the high-powered USA and Canada to only nine goals on 103 shots in the two previous games. Perhaps it was the familiarity of playing Swiss players that sparked Kenins, who had yet to score in the tournament, to his three point performance (2 goals, 1 assist). Kenins plays in Switzerland's second league.
Honorable Mentions: F Mikael Granlund (FIN) had one goal and three assists despite possessing the least Finnish name on the team's roster. ... F Nino Niederreiter (SUI), 2010 draft eligble, had a goal and two assists as the Swiss offence finally scored against Latvia. ... F Roberts Bukarts (LAT) had his second two-goal performance of the tournament.
Play of the Day
There are no highlights available as of yet, and they might be hard to find as most media based their day around the Team Canada Olympic Men's Hockey team announcement. But the best play I saw was actually courtesy of lowly Team Latvia, when F Robert Cinks completely fooled the Swiss defense by finding captain Roberts Bukarts at the side of the net for a power play goal.
The goal had the decidedly pro-Latvian crowd at Credit Union Centre on its feet, and Bukarts even saluted a fan wearing a Latvia jersey in the front row in his celebration. The goal gave Latvia their first lead of the tournament.
Notebook: Josi and Sbisa found out about their selection to the Swiss Olympic team from their U20 coach, Jakob Kolliker, who will also be behind the bench in Vancouver. The two Swiss players are the only players at the 2010 WJHC who will be at the Olympics. ... No official word yet, but Luca Sbisa looked fine walking around ice level during post-game interviews. He is expected to play tomorrow against Slovakia in the battle for the third seed in Group A. ... With their losses, Latvia and Austria will move into the relegation round. Since they lost all their games, their record going into this second round-robin will be 0-1, as they won't play the 4th place team in their own group again... So far, only three teams are guaranteed to be in the medal round: Canada, USA, and Sweden. Tomorrow's games will sort out the other three teams, as Sweden plays Finland (2 p.m. EST), Switzerland plays Slovakia (4 p.m. EST), and Russia plays the Czech Republic (6 p.m. EST). After those games, the final three teams who advance to the playoff round will be determined, leaving one game to determine the No. 1 seed in Group A. Of course, that game will be Canada vs. USA at 8 p.m. EST.