Date: January 6, 2017

Lebanon vs Haiti in a Friendly

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By National Teams of Ice Hockey

Montreal  is a city that has made lots of hockey history but on April 23rd at 7pm at Raymond-Bourque Arena two countries will be making their international debut Lebanon will be taking on Haiti in a friendly ice hockey game. 

There is a strong chance that former NHL player Georges Laraque is going to be playing on the Haiti team. He is the director of the Haiti Association.

Haiti is no stranger to the game of hockey In 2015 Haiti’s national street hockey team defeated the Cayman Islands 4:2 to win the finals of the B-pool of the Street Hockey World Championship in Zug, Switzerland.

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Lebanon is new to the sport but they are trying to qualify for the 2017 World Ball Hockey Championships.

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For both countries this ice hockey game will be another way to promote the sport in their communities and their countries. We wish them all the best.

Croatian prospect Ficur joins MOB for North American experience

By Robert MurrayFort McMurray Today

The first time Fort McMurray Oil Barons head coach Tom Keca met Ficur, the McMurrayite had helped arrange travels through Alberta for a pair of hockey-minded youth groups from Europe. A standout then, Keca left the door open for Ficur to return when he was older if he wanted to experience the game at faster pace.

After travelling over 7,000 kilometers, Ficur reunited with Keca this week as the 1998-born forward seriously considers his hockey future.

“It would be like any Canadian soccer player going over there and trying to play soccer,” Keca said summing it up. “You play here at a certain level, but it’s just a different world.”

Ficur wasn’t front and centre on television screens this holiday, but the forward still took part in the World Junior Hockey Championships in mid-Decmeber, collecting a pair of assists as Croatia finished sixth out of six teams in the Division II Group A Championship in Estonia.

“The conditions here are much greater than in Croatia,” said Ficur. “I’m just enjoying my time here.

“Day after day, I’m getting better with the guys. I’m getting used to it. I’m really happy to be here.”

The reunion was no coincidence. Keca’s connections to the European nation and 26th ranked country in the hockey world — 14th in soccer, if we’re comparing — still run strong more than 20 years after a professional stint in the country.

“The education that I got was nothing that I could ever get from a book or in a classroom,” noted Keca of his professional time. “It was living it. For him, that’s a decision that’s he’s going to have to make as well.”

He added Ficur had aspirations of playing for a year in Canada before attempting to join a post-secondary program south of the border.

The intensity of practice and the mandatory Tuesday yoga sessions took the forward by surprise, but it’s an experience he’s happy to drink in. Though he’s a point per game player with KHL Mladost Zagreb, a team in the Croatian Ice Hockey League that features players almost double his age, getting up to speed in the North American version of the game was an encouraging process.

“It’s a little bit tougher than in Europe,” Ficur added. “It’s more physical. I’m here to see how it works.

“Maybe I go to the college next year. That’s my dream.”

For the brief stay, which will include a trip to the West Edmonton Mall at the request of some of Ficur’s friends back home, the Barons have been accommodating.

“It’s cool to learn how different our lives are,” said defenceman Taner Miller, who has provided Ficur with drives home after practice. “He’s said it’s a lot faster than he’s used to, but I think he’s done really good.

“He’s the same as all of us on the ice, it’s just off the ice you can tell the differences.”

MOB host Kodiaks, Pontiacs

Ficur’s stay will the team will carry through this weekend as the MOB host the Camrose Kodiaks and Bonnyville Pontiacs Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Two wins to end 2016 put the Barons on a good path to being back in the hunt for the North Division lead, but they won’t matter much unless the MOB strike against two of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s best teams.

An offensively dangerous team like the Kodiaks will be trying to avoid the season series sweep while also fighting a positioning battle of their own in the South Division. With the Pontiacs, the MOB will try to score their first win on home ice against Bonnyville since Feb. 4, 2015, a streak of five straight losses.

“For whatever reason there’s just certain teams that you just don’t match up well against,” continued Keca. “They’re a team that outworks you if nothing else. They’re a team you can hit once, twice three times and they still keep coming at you.

“That relentlessness is a characteristic that we’d like to see a little bit more of in our team.”

Terry scores shootout gold

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By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

Troy Terry has done it again. He was the only scorer of ten shootout shooters tonight, giving the USA the gold medal in an incredible 5-4 win over Canada.

Just 24 hours ago, he scored three goals in a shootout to defeat Russia and advance to today’s championship game.

“Before the shootout, I was thinking about trying something different [than shooting between the legs],” Terry explained. “As I came down, I decided I just had to try to go five-hole.”

“I think it’s a Troy effect,” teammate Jack Roslovic enthused. “No matter what, you can cover it all you want, you can sit in the butterfly, he’ll find the five-hole.”

U.S. goalie Tyler Parsons stopped all five Canadian shooters, none of which came particularly close to scoring.

Canadian counterpart Carter Hart stopped four shots, allowing only Terry’s low shot between the pads.

For the Americans this marks their fourth U20 gold, following 2004, 2010, and 2013.

“It was a great atmosphere in the building,” Parsons said. “It gave me chills. It’s unbelievable to win this for your country.”

“Unbelievable,” said Colin White. “There’s no feeling like it. We came together as a team. Four weeks now we’ve been together, and to win a gold medal together is just great. The calmness we’ve had all tournament was huge. We were down yesterday, down twice today by two goals. We stayed calm on the bench and fought back.We always knew we had each other’s backs all tournament, and we came together so well as a team.”

Canada had an early lead of 2-0–and let it slip away–as well as a more critical 4-2 lead early in the third, but the Americans simply refused to give up or be intimidated by the pro-Canadian crowd.

There were countless scoring chances and giveaways forced by puck pressure, end-to-end action, and blinding speed. Canada outshot the U.S., 50-36, but in the end it was another nifty move by Terry that proved the difference.

“It was such an up-and-down game,” Terry said. “We were down two goals twice. I think when we were down 2-0 and came back to tie it we got some confidence because it sucked to go down two goals right away. But, we knew as a team that no matter how we played, we had the confidence to get back into the game.”

Kieffer Bellows, with his second of the game, and Colin White tied the game midway through the third, and despite incredible opportunities to score, the game went into a fourth and final period.

“The 23 of us, all the way from summer camp to Buffalo camp, we knew we had to come up huge,” said Bellows, the American-born son of longtime Canadian NHLer, Brian. “Our country needed us at this point with the hockey. Kids looking up to us, teenagers, older adults that love hockey so much were looking up to us. We came out on top, and hopefully the country’s proud of us.”

The 20-minute, five-on-five overtime was breath-taking and heart-stopping, Canada dominating but both teams having several glorious chances to win. Indeed, the Canadians had the only power play, called because of a too-many-men penalty to the U.S., but it couldn’t put the puck in.

The Fates seemed to will the puck out of the net, believing a shootout was needed to decide this incredible contest of speed, skill, strength, and determination.

Canada’s defenceman Thomas Chabot, named tournament MVP, played a staggering 43:53 in defeat.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done in this tournament,” he explained, “but it’s so hard to lose this game. I put everything I could into representing my country as well as I could and help the team win. I may have got the MVP, but I’m heartbroken. It’s very difficult right now.”

The game was played before a crowd of 20,173, just shy of the single-game mark set in Ottawa in 2009 between Canada and Sweden (20,380).

Emotions were high and the tension thick as the final game of the 2017 World Junior Championship started. The Americans had defeated Canada soundly, 3-1, just six days earlier, but now the gold medal was on the line.

Both teams had developed and matured over the last two weeks, and with everything on the line players gave it their all, and more.

The game started at a feverish pitch, and the raucous Bell Centre crowd was as loud as it’s been this year for the juniors. But just as the Canadians seemed nervous and tentative on New Year’s Eve, tonight it was the Americans who seemed rattled by circumstance, the intensity, and the relentless puck pressure from Canada.

Canada took control early and maintained high energy throughout the period, getting the puck deep and forcing the U.S. defencemen to turn and skate back to make a play.

The opening goal came at 4:38 off the rush. Matt Barzal made a nice pass to Mathieu Joseph, going to the net. Joseph couldn’t handle the puck but it came to defenceman Chabot who buried the puck as Parsons was playing Joseph to shoot.

Canada made it 2-0 at 9:02 thanks to a scramble in the U.S. slot. Adam Fox made an ill-advised swat at the puck with his glove, and it came right to Jeremy Lauzon who waited patiently before ripping a shot to the stick side of a screened Parsons.

Two goals, two defencemen, two French-Canadians. 2-0.

The Americans had a chance to get back into it with a power play, but they would up incurring a minor of their own halfway through to nullify the chance. 

To start the second, though, the U.S. came out with purpose and turned the tables on Canada, getting the puck deep, forechecking effectively, and putting Canada on its heels.

The reward came just 3:04 into the period when Jordan Greenway made a nice pass from the left-wing boards to defenceman Charlie McAvoy, the trailer on the play. He had plenty of time to take aim and drill a shot over Hart’s glove to cut the lead in half.

The crowd responded with tremendous support, and the Canadian players got their legs going, coming right back at their opponents. This wave was scuttled by a too-many-men penalty, though, and that cost Canada dearly.

A point shot from Fox drifted to the goal and hit Bellows on the way in at 9:30. Tie game.

The Canadians continued to skate and drew two late power plays, but some over-passing on their part and good defence by the Americans kept it a 2-2 game.

A third power play early in the third gave Canada a chance it didn’t pass up. Nicolas Roy ripped a shot over Parsons’ shoulder at 1:52, and at 4:05 they made it 4-2 when Mathieu Joseph raced past Casey Fitzgerald at the U.S. blue line and made a great deke on Parsons.

But the resilient Americans did not go queitly to defeat. Just 38 seconds later McAvoy fed Bellows in the slot, and his quick shot fooled Hart to make it 4-3.

They weren’t done yet.

Fox made a sensational pass to Colin White to the side of Hart, and White’s perfect deflection at 7:07 found the back of the net. Four goals in just over five minutes and the game was tied again, much to the shock of the Bell Centre fans.

“I saw [Fox] get the puck up there,” White described. “I was behind the net, and I knew if I stayed on that low post he’d get it to me. It was a great play by him, and I was lucky enough to tip that in.”

That set the stage for a wild finish that will go down in history as one of the greatest junior games ever played.

Thomas Chabot, a 19-year-old defenceman who plays for the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs and appeared in one NHL game this season with the Ottawa Senators, was also voted to the tournament All-Star Team, and was named Best Defenceman by the tournament directorate. He scored Canada’s opening goal and added an assist in the final against the United States.

Chabot led all defencemen in tournament scoring with 10 points (4+6), and led the World Juniors in ice time, averaging 26:14 per game.

The U.S. and Russia both placed two players on the tournament all-star team. Russian captain Kirill Kaprizov, who led the World Juniors with nine goals, was named Best Forward and an all-star. 

Individual Awards (selected by the directorate)

Best Goalkeeper: Felix Sandstrom, Sweden
Best Defenceman: Thomas Chabot, Canada
Best Forward: Kirill Kaprizov, Russia

Most Valuable Player (selected by the media)

Thomas Chabot, Canada

All-Star Team (selected by the media)

GK: Ilya Samsonov, Russia
DE: Thomas Chabot, Canada
DE: Charlie McAvoy, United States
FW: Kirill Kaprizov, Russia
FW: Alexander Nylander, Sweden
FW: Clayton Keller, United States

Bronze goes to Russia

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

Russia edged Sweden 2-1 in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship bronze medal game on Thursday. Denis Guryanov scored the overtime winner at 0:33.

The goal came from a miscue. Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, one of two 2000-born players in this tournament, attempted to feed the puck back to scoring leader Alexander Nylander, who couldn’t control it. Guryanov jumped on the puck and surprised everyone with a quick backhander that slid past Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom.

It’s Russia’s seventh straight World Junior medal. The streak includes gold (2011), silver (2012, 2015, 2016), and bronze (2013, 2014, 2017).

“I’m proud to keep this streak going for Russian hockey,” said captain Kirill Kaprizov.

Guryanov stepped up in the playoffs. The 19-year-old forward from the AHL’s Texas Stars also scored two third-period goals in the 4-3 semi-final loss to the United States, and put two pucks in the net during the shootout finale.

“It’s just amazing to win a medal, especially in the Bell Centre, my home rink,” said defenceman Mikhail Sergyachov, who played three games for the Montreal Canadiens at age 18 this season. “It’s special. Our goalie Ilya Samsonov was amazing. He’s an NHLer, for sure.”

It’s the third straight year with no medals for Sweden, which also finished fourth in 2015 and 2016. They settled for silver in 2013 and 2014.

“We had a lot of chances to put the game away early,” said Rasmus Asplund. “We played well but we made too many mistakes.”

The last Swedish gold – the first and only one since 1981 – came in 2012 under coach Roger Ronnberg, with Mika Zibanejad scoring the 1-0 overtime winner versus Russia in Calgary. That was also the only other time Sweden and Russia have squared off in a medal game since the IIHF instituted the playoff system in 1996.

Kaprizov said: “Our players were completely exhausted last night after losing — physically and emotionally — but we battled to the very end. We knew a bronze medal is still a medal to be proud of.”

In regulation, Jonathan Dahlen scored for Sweden, and Kirill Kaprizov tallied for Russia. Sweden outshot Russia 39-36, and Samsonov saved his best tournament performance for last.

“He came up big for them,” said Swedish captain Joel Eriksson Ek. “We needed to maybe get in front and get some tips, get some rebounds. And we weren’t able to do that today.”

Samsonov, a 2015 first-round pick of the Washington Capitals, barred the door in the scoreless first period, where the Russians took three minors. Sweden, despite outshooting their opponents 15-3, couldn’t break through.

Kaprizov drew first blood just 16 seconds into the middle frame. Showing great determination, he cut to the net and flubbed his first attempt, but got the puck away from Dahlin to bang it past Sandstrom.

Kaprizov’s goal – his tournament-leading ninth – tied him for the second-highest number of goals in one World Juniors by any player in the post-Soviet era (after 1991). Sweden’s Markus Naslund set the all-time record with 13 goals in 1993, while Russia’s Pavel Bure had 12 in 1991. Max Friberg, another Swede, scored nine goals in 2012.

About five minutes later, Samsonov was briefly shaken up when Eriksson Ek collided with Carl Grundstrom going to the net, pushing his teammate into the Russian goalie. But Samsonov got up and kept on trucking.

Sweden tied it halfway through the second period on a Russian mistake. Assistant captain Yegor Rykov got the puck right in front of his net, but fluffed his pass, enabling Dahlen to whack it past a surprised Samsonov for his fifth of these World Juniors.

“I saw that he was holding the puck unusually long in that situation, so I tried to pressure him,” said Dahlen. “Then I saw he made the pass really quickly and I just tried to get it in the net because the goalie was not ready. It was a lucky play, but it was in the back of the net.”

Russia failed to click with its two second-period power plays.

Dahlen got a breakaway with under six minutes left, but Samsonov stoned him on the initial shot and the follow-up. The Russian goalie strained himself while kicking out his right leg to foil a late-period Swedish chance. But again, he soldiered on. Fredrik Karlstrom came close just before the second buzzer, putting one off the crossbar.

Chances for both sides abounded in the third period. Asplund sent a lovely pass to Karlstrom on a 2-on-1 rush, but Samsonov came across to foil him. Guryanov waltzed down right wing and rang one off Sandstrom’s left post. Nylander and Grundstrom barely failed to click on a pretty give-and-go.

“We won the first two practice games before the tournament and the five first games in the tournament,” said Dahlen. “We won seven out of nine games but we’re standing here without a medal. Something was wrong. It’s a huge disappointment.”

Both teams will hope for better results at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo. That American border city was the site of Russia’s last gold medal seven years ago.