Ottawa Citizen

Canada’s cap­tain leads team’s caped cru­sade

- JOANNE IRE­LAND

UFA, Rus­sia • There have been other re­wards handed out to game day heroes in the past. Pucks? That’s long been a stan­dard. Hard hats? That too has been done be­fore.

So when Steve Spott and his Team Canada staff set out to find a prize be­fit­ting their heroes dur­ing the 2013 world ju­nior hockey cham­pi­onships, they set­tled on a black satiny cape em­bel­lished with the words “The Rea­son” as well as a Team Canada logo.

Cap­tain Ryan Nu­gent-Hop­kins was the first to wear it, af­ter his five-point per­for­mance in Wed­nes­day’s 9-3 win over Ger­many. He later signed it, added the date, and hung it in his stall. It will be passed on to the hero of Fri­day’s game against Slo­vakia.

“I’ve seen the Jor­dan Eberle goal as of­ten as any­body. I’ve seen the Jonathan Toews shootouts. You need heroic plays at events like this,” said Spott. “You don’t know when it’s go­ing to come but we thought this might be fit­ting for af­ter the game.

“This is some­thing we think is unique and it em­bar­rasses them a lit­tle bit when they come out and face you guys.

“It’s ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion,” he con­tin­ued. “They need to laugh. Th­ese are teenage kids and we for­get that some­times (but) you need some­one to be a hero or make a heroic play or lead our hockey club, and not just on of­fence. It could be a blocked shot, a save, but I thought this was fit­ting. He had a great game.”

Nu­gent-Hop­kins’ last five-point game was against the Chicago Black­hawks when the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers cen­tre picked up five as­sists in a 9-2 win on Nov. 19, 2011.

DROUIN SHAKES OFF LEG WOE

The day be­fore the world ju­niors opened, Jonathan Drouin left the prac­tice ice with a charley horse, one that was de­scribed as mild but was se­ri­ous enough to leave his in­clu­sion on the tour­na­ment ros­ter in doubt.

Drouin, the Hal­i­fax Moose­heads rookie, has since set­tled onto the sec­ond line with Ryan Strome and Xavier Ouel­let. He scored his first goal of the tour­na­ment and picked up an as­sist in the 9-3 vic­tory over Ger­many.

“Boy oh boy, he’s a spe­cial hockey player,” said Spott. “The thing I like about his game is that he’s re­spon­si­ble in our end and he’s just so dy­namic of­fen­sively, so he’s ev­ery­thing I was hop­ing he’d be.”

The med­i­cal staff cleared Drouin on the eve of the opener. Hockey Canada had left a spot open on the 23-man ros­ter and added the 17-year-old winger be­fore the tour­na­ment got un­der­way.

“The doc­tors put him through some rig­or­ous ex­er­cise and he was do­ing sprints (so) I felt a lot bet­ter go­ing to bed. I knew he was good,” said Spott. “But those are tough. Any­one how has a charley horse knows how painful those can be.”

FOUR IS THE MAGIC NUM­BER

The man­date for Team Canada is to keep the penal­ties to four or less as they make their way through the pre­lim­i­nary round of the tour­na­ment.

They racked up four against Ger­many, all in the first 40 min­utes. The next test comes on Fri­day.

“We went into that third pe­riod know­ing we had four penal­ties and we didn’t want to get over that,” said winger Mark Scheifele. “That showed a lot of dis­ci­pline. Guys were putting their sticks away. Guys were not do­ing any­thing to get that fifth penalty.

“It was a good sign. I think ev­ery­one knows we have to be dis­ci­plined.”

Spott said he doesn’t have a spe­cific pun­ish­ment in mind for the guilty party who might end up with the fifth in­frac­tion, and there might even be some wig­gle room there, de­pend­ing on the cir­cum­stances.

“Four or less, that’s our goal. That’s the man­date,” Spott said. “You’re go­ing to take penal­ties, we know that; it’s the type of penal­ties.”

GER­MAN FAN CLUB

Among those ap­plaud­ing Canada’s start in the tour­na­ment was Ger­many’s To­bias Rieder. The Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers prospect, who is honing his game with the Kitch­ener Rangers, said he has no doubt Canada has a shot at the gold.

“It was pretty spe­cial play­ing against Canada,” he said on the heels of his team’s 9-3 loss. “We knew it was go­ing to be a game like that. I mean it was good we scored three goals but you don’t play Canada ev­ery day so it was pretty spe­cial.”

Ger­many made it to the 10-team pool af­ter win­ning its rel­e­ga­tion tour­na­ment. Their goal is more mod­est than tak­ing home a medal.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada