Friday, Dec 28th
Team Canada still has some proving to do despite defeating Germany 9-3 on Wednesday morning. They take a step forward Friday when the take on a scrappy Slovakian squad that took Russia to overtime in their first game.
If Slovakia has any advantage in this game, it is that they know each other pretty well. Fourteen members of the Slovak roster play for HC Orange 20 in Bratislava. Familiarity can play a role in a short tournament like this, and Slovakia holds that advantage over every team in Ufa.
SLOVAKIA – OTTAWA CONNECTION
There are some local ties on the Slovakian team. Forward Martin Reway plays for the Gatineau Olympiques, while forward Richard Mraz started the season with the Ottawa 67’s before returning home to Slovakia in November.
Boone Jenner, despite being suspended is still having an impact on the team, and not all in a good way. A spectacular centre ice collision between Jenner and Xavier Ouellet left both players shaken up for a time, but apparently there were no lasting effects, and Ouellet should be fine for the Slovakia game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canada – Ryan Murphy – The defenseman was added to the team based primarily on his ability to produce on the power play. His performance in that area has been less than overwhelming, and he plays a gambling style that reminds me of PK Subban in 2009. While exciting, it needs to be more effective to make it worth the risk.
Slovakia – Richard Mraz – In his short stint in Ottawa, Mraz had difficulty handling the physical style of play. As a returning member of Team Slovakia, he will be counted upon to provide offense and leadership.
Slovakia will try to play a stifling defensive style, like they did against the Russians, and wait for turnovers to counter-attack. Canada must be patient and not give those opportunities very often. Canada should have the skill to beat the trap as a group, but we would have said the same thing about Russia. Canada should prevail, but it won’t be easy.
USA vs Russia – The first marquee matchup of the tournament pitting anticipated gold medal contenders. The first games results can be a little misleading, but the US looks ready to go. The Russians have had a day off to regroup and plan for the Americans. Russia should bounce back and this could be a close game, possibly requiring extra time.
Czech Republic vs. Finland – The Finns have been flying under the radar, but have assembled a quality team that is capable of medalling this year. An injury to Miro Aaltonen will hurt their depth, but they should be able to defeat the Czech’s.
Sweden vs Switzerland - The Swiss handled Latvia in their opener, but they are stepping up in class against the Swedes. Sweden should go to 2-0 fairly easily.