Date: January 5, 2017

NHL Player Profile: Nathan Walker

By Adam Hayes – National Teams of Ice hockey

Being the first person of your origin to do something is always a difficult feat. After being founded in 1917, with over 30 different clubs and millions of viewers, the National Hockey League is one of the most prominent sports leagues across the world. However, despite this immense popularity, the NHL has never had a player from Australian origin. Playing hockey since his childhood, Nathan Walker wanted to change that.

Early Career:

Born in 1994 in Cardiff, Great Britain, Nathan Walker developed a fondness for the ice court at a young age. At only 5’8” and weighing in at 176 lbs, despite his diminutive size compared to many future NHL players, Walker started his career dominating other youth in U-14 & U-16 leagues in Australia. By outperforming much of his local competition, Walker made a name for himself and garnered interest from foreign teams.

This reputation led to Walker’s coach acquiring a tryout from a Czech Republic team named HC Vitkovice. Following successful tryouts, Walker dominated in the organization’s U-18 team and was later given the ability to play for the U-20 team as he grew. Walker’s early success in Europe continued when he played in the 2011 Spengler Cup and 2011-12 Czech Extraliga season with the senior version of his club, HC Vitkovice. After Averaging over four goals, five assists, and nine points in the season, Walkers great play developed significant interest from organizations in the NHL and propelled him towards he is now.

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Nathan Walker with Team Australia.

NHL Career:

Even after playing in Europe for six years, Walker’s path to the NHL was not as clear cut as it should have been. Initially signing with the Youngstown Phantoms, a US Ice Hockey Junior League team, Walker continued to demonstrate his excellence in the ring by recording 27 points in the 29 games that he played during the season. However, despite putting up great numbers in the regular season games he played, a neck injury resulted in Walker missing out on the postseason.

Following spending his off time recovering from his injury and training in the Czech Republic. Walker was invited to the Washington Capitals training camp. Looking to realize his draft dreams, Walker managed to be sufficient in his performance and avoid being cut from camp. However, despite being wanted by the team, a lingering NHL rule prevented the Capitals signing Walker due to his play overseas in Europe a year prior. This rule meant that Walker had to wait out another year for the 2014 NHL Draft before being allowed to play for any team.

Spending his time with the Capitals D-League while waiting for the 2014 draft, Walker became the first Australian player to play for an NHL D league team. During the season with the team Walker also recorded his first point before being chosen by the Capitals in the 2014 draft with the 89th pick. Walker then signed a three-year deal and had become the first Australian player in the NHL.

Significance:

Nathan Walker’s rise from a promising local star into an NHL talent provides hope to many players regardless of their sport. After being thousands of miles away, Walker showed that he was never afraid of achieving his dreams. His success is very significant not only to Australians hoping to have a career in the NHL but children around the world who want to accomplish their goals. Nathan Walker, the first Australian professional hockey player of all time provides hope to potential sportspeople everywhere.

Sapporo 2017 Attracts 26 Ice Hockey Teams for Men’s and Women’s Events

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By Around The Rings

The Sapporo Asian Winter Games Organizing Committee (SAWGOC) today announced details of the ice hockey tournament for the Olympic Council of Asia’s 8th Asian Winter Games next month.

A total of 20 men’s teams will play in three separate divisions: Top Division (4 teams), Division I (6 teams) and Division II (10 teams).
All six of the women’s teams will play in the same tournament.

The grouping of each tournament is based on positions in the 2016 IIHF men’s and women’s world rankings, or in the 2016 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia ranking.

The tournament formats are as follows:

・ Men’s Top Division: A single round robin by four teams

・ Men’s Division I: A single round robin by six teams.

・ Men’s Division II: After a Preliminary Round in Group A and Group B (5 teams in each group), the two group runners-up will play off for third place. The winners of the two preliminary round groups will play in the final for the overall top position in Division II. The 5th to 10th places in the final ranking will be determined based on results in the Preliminary Round in accordance with the IIHF Sport Regulations.

・ Women’s Tournament: A single round robin by six teams.

Based on the above-mentioned formats, the pairings of the games in the respective tournaments have been finalised in accordance with the IIHF Sport Regulations.

Men’s Top Division (4 teams, at Tsukisamu Gymnasium): Kazakhstan, Japan, Korea, China.

Men’s Division 1 (6 teams, at Mikaho Gymnasium): Hong Kong-China, United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Singapore.

Men’s Division II (10 teams, at Hoshioki Ice Skating Rink): Group A – Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, *Independent Olympic Athletes, Philippines, Bahrain. Group B – Malaysia, Macau-China, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Iran.

*The Independent Olympic Athletes will be representing Kuwait Olympic Committee, which is suspended by the International Olympic Committee.

Women’s Tournament (6 teams, at Tsukisamu Gymnasium): Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Korea, Hong Kong-China, Thailand.

The ice hockey tournament will begin on February 18 – one day before the Opening Ceremony of the 8th Asian Winter Games at Sapporo Dome.

There will be free admission for all games in Men’s Division II.

The OCA’s 8th Asian Winter Games will run from February 19-26 at Sapporo, with the speed skating at Obihiro. There will be five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events.

Ice Hockey Schedule Here

Fired up Canada wins

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By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

Canada rallied from a shaky start and deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to defeat Sweden, 5-2.

The win earns the hosts a spot in tomorrow night’s gold-medal game with arch-rivals United States.

Julien Gauthier had two goals for Canada while Anthony Cirelli and Dylan Strome each had a goal and an assist.

“We had a game plan and we stuck to it: getting in on the forecheck, playing physical, not giving them too much time to move, because they’re a skilled team,” Cirelli said.

“We just played harder,” Gauthier added. “We’ve done a lot of things differently. I think we have better chemistry between all the guys, and that’s why we’re here.”

Goalie Carter Hart was perfect in relief of Connor Ingram who struggled and was replaced after giving up two early goals on three shots. 

Canada outshot the Swedes 43-31 in a hard-hitting, sometimes chippy game that was the most emotional both sides have played all tournament.

“We had a great start,” said coach Tomas Monten, “but we had several chances for a third goal and didn’t get it. Our speed and skill weren’t good enough to get away from their forecheck.”

“We played Canadian hockey tonight,” offered coach Dominique Ducharme. “We used our speed to take away their space and time, and we played a physical game.”

Fans were treated to a wild first period punctuated by several great scoring chances, four goals, one goalie change, and plenty of big-time hits.

The Swedes opened the scoring at 6:05 when captain Joel Eriksson Ek beat Ingram with a long shot. It was the kind of shot a goalie must stop every time.

Less than two minutes later, though, the fired-up Canadians tied the game thanks to some nice work by Cirelli. He got a loose puck behind the net and tried a wraparound. Goalie Felix Sandstrom blocked the shot but the puck bounced over defenceman Gabriel Carlsson’s stick and Mitchell Stephens banged it in.

We weren’t done yet. Carl Grundstrom came in on goal on a partial breakaway and fanned on his shot, but it still dribbled through Ingram’s pads. Coach Ducharme had no choice but to insert Hart.

Hart was perfect the rest of the period, but the Swedes missed the net on some nice chances or drilled a few other good chances into Hart’s body for easy saves. Nonetheless, it was a steadying influence.

Cirelli tied the game at 18:49 when his hard shot beat Sandstrom over the shoulder, another goal that had a bit of an odour to it.

The tide began to turn midway through the second period. Quickly Canada upped the tempo and the Swedes couldn’t respond. Then wave after wave of Canadians forechecked, attacked, created scoring chances.

Cirelli rang a shot off the crossbar, and moments later Canada finally got the well-deserved go-ahead goal. Gauthier jammed a puck in at 12:02, and Canada continued its attack.

Sandstrom deserves full credit for keeping the score close. He made two unbelievable saves off Tyson Jost on the back side, first with a pad, then with the glove.

Sweden’s only decent chance came late when Hart flubbed a shot that trickled to the goal line.

“It was a rolling puck, so I went to catch it, and it bounced out of my glove,” Hart said. “I saw it pop up, and I reached back and got my glove on it. Luckily it didn’t go in.”

Captain Dylan Strome made it 4-2 at 7:38 of the third while teams were four-on-four. His screen shot fooled Sandstrom.

Gauthier closed out the scoring with an empty netter with 1:58 remaining.

Americans going for gold

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Troy Terry scored three shootout goals to give the U.S. a 4-3 semi-final win over Russia. It’s the first U.S. playoff win over Russia in World Junior history.

In the best-of-five shootout, which had 14 shots in total, Terry’s hat trick feat equalled that of Jonathan Toews in the 2007 semi-final when Canada beat the United States 2-1.

“He has great skill, great hands,” U.S. defenceman Charlie McAvoy said of Terry, who plays for the University of Denver. “He’s got ice in his veins, and he proved that tonight.”

The Americans will face the winner of Sweden-Canada in Thursday’s gold medal game at the Bell Centre, while Russia goes for bronze.

“I’ve never been a part of something like this,” said U.S. scoring leader Clayton Keller. “It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable to get the win and go for the gold medal tomorrow.

This was one of the most exciting games of the 2017 World Juniors, a fitting showdown between these two old adversaries in Montreal.

In regulation, Colin White scored twice and captain Luke Kunin added a single for the Americans. Keller had two assists. For Russia, Denis Guryanov scored twice and Kirill Kaprizov had the other goal. Guryanov also put two pucks in during the shootout.

Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov let in a couple of shaky goals, but like his U.S. counterpart Tyler Parsons, he was excellent overall. Shots on goal favored the U.S. 44-36.

“Obviously it’s super-tough,” Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergyachov said of losing. “We wanted to win that game. We did everything we could to win. We lost in the shootout. I just want to say thanks to the boys for a great effort.”

The Americans, who earned bronze last year, are seeking their first World Junior gold since beating Sweden in the 2013 final. The previous two U.S. titles came in 2004 and 2010. The Russians, who haven’t won gold since 2011, will look to take their seventh straight World Junior medal.

For the U.S., it was a wonderful end to a longstanding jinx. Russia defeated the U.S. 5-3 in the 2014 quarter-finals, 3-2 in the 2015 quarter-finals, and 2-1 in the 2016 semi-finals.

“It’s unbelievable, especially to do it in that fashion,” Keller said.

The game unfolded with a high tempo and few whistles. True to form, the Americans had the edge in overall play, but the Russians were opportunistic. Both teams’ leaders came to play.

Kaprizov scored his tournament-leading eighth goal at 11:54 to open the scoring. Behind the net, the Russian captain grabbed the puck, exploded between Terry and Joe Cecconi, and caught Parsons looking the wrong way as he completed the wrap-around. In the KHL, Kaprizov plays for Ufa, the site of the 2013 World Juniors, where the U.S. won its last gold medal.

With 55 seconds left in the first, Keller fired a bad-angle shot from the corner that bounced off White and past a surprised Samsonov. Keller was named MVP at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in April when the Americans won bronze.

“He put it off my butt there,” said White. “I was a little bit lucky there.”

At 1:17 of the second period, Russia jumped into a 2-1 lead. Parsons kicked out Vadim Kudako’s drive from the top of the left faceoff circle, but Guryanov was there to bang in the rebound.

The U.S. got the game’s first power play at 4:52 when Danil Yurtaikin cross-checked U.S. defenceman Adam Fox from behind into the boards, but the acrobatic Samsonov kept them at bay.

At the other end, Kaprizov came within a heartbeat of scoring again on a goalmouth chance, and Alexander Polunin knocked Parsons’ helmet off when the U.S. starter stretched to block the rebound. There was a long delay while trainers checked Parsons out, but he carried on.

“He’s a great goaltender,” Keller said of Parsons. “He’s hard to score on in practice. He’s chill back there. He’s not nervous. He’s not going to let them score an easy one.”

At 10:23, the U.S. tied it up on a great play with their second man advantage. Kunin went hard to the net to tip Jordan Greenway’s feed past Samsonov’s left pad.

White gave the Americans a 3-2 lead with his sixth goal of the tournament at 16:21. His shot from the left faceoff circle tipped off Sergyachov and fluttered past Samsonov’s blocker side.

In the third period, Sergei Zborovski hauled down the fleet-footed Keller on a partial breakaway at 5:14, and a penalty shot was awarded. Keller approached slowly, and Samsonov made a great slove save on his high backhand attempt.

Just 50 seconds later, Guryanov got loose on a breakaway and went to the forehand to slip the disc through Parsons’s legs. A wild celebration broke out at the Russian bench.

In the 4-on-4 overtime, exciting chances abounded at both ends. In particular, Samsonov dazzled when Joey Anderson hit the crossbar, followed up by a close-range save on Caleb Jones, and a stunning grab when Anderson tried to slide it in.

“It was a super-fast and emotional game,” said Sergyachov. “A lot of penalties for us. Our goalie made some crazy saves. Our forwards played their best game in the tournament. We executed well. We made some mistakes in the D zone.”

Of the shootout, Keller said: “When I was watching, they’d score, and then when I wasn’t watching, we’d get the save or whatever. So I thought I’d just not watch the last couple of shooters and it worked out.”

America’s long wait for this first playoff win makes it that much more satisfying.