Sunday 27 December 2009

The European Canadian Team

There's another Team Canada that is celebrating the holiday season by defeating teams from all across the planet. The Spengler Cup is being played in Davos, Switzerland, and Canada is looking to better their second-place finish from last season's tournament. You'll probably recognize the majority of the names on this team as they are former NHL and AHL stars, but this collection of Canadians are currently playing in Europe for a variety of teams.

Canada is led by former Islander Wade Dubielewicz and former Coyote David Leneveu in net. Dublielewicz is currently playing for the AHL's Houston Aeros, and sports a 7-7 record with a 2.21 GAA for the AHL club. Leneveu is playing with EC Red Bull Salzburg, and most recently welcomed his second daughter, Hannah, to the family. David and his wife, April, and his two daughters, Ashlynn and Hannah, are with Salzburg on a one-year deal.

On the blueline, the Canadians are led by former St. Louis Blues defenseman Jamie Rivers, former Maple Leaf Ric Jackman, and former Thrasher Yannick Tremblay. Rounding out the seven defensemen are a few former AHL stars: Micki DuPont, formerly of the Peoria Rivermen; Mike Siklenka, formerly of the Philadelphia Phantoms; Curtis Murphy, formerly of the Houston Aeros; Shawn Heins, formerly of the Chicago Wolves; and, Travis Roche, formerly of the San Antonio Rampage.

Up front, the collection of forwards include a former first overall NHL draft pick, a former Stanley Cup winner, and a number of recognizable former NHL players. The first overall NHL draft pick is none other than Alexandre Daigle, who is currently starring for SC Langnau Tigers in the Swiss Elite League. The former Stanley Cup winner is Boyd Devereaux, who is currently playing for Lugano in the Swiss Elite League.

Other notable names include former Shark and Sabre Curtis Brown, former Penguin and Lightning Michel Ouellet, former Blue Jacket and Thrasher Serge Aubin, former Avalanche and Panther Brett McLean, former Shark and Maple Leaf Mark Bell, former Thrasher JP Vigier, and former NHL nomad Randy Robitaille. Rounding out the forwards are former AHLers such as Cory Pecker, Kurtis McLean, Dale McTavish, Brendan Brooks, Blaine Down, and Jean-Guy Trudel.

While the lack of apparent star power that this team has, don't be fooled by the lack of success these players had in North America. Brendan Brooks, for example, leads the SC Langnau Tigers in scoring with 17 goals and nine assists in 34 games this season. Serge Aubin leads Fribourg-Gottéron with 12 goals and 17 assists in 32 games while Shawn Heins sits third on the team in scoring with eight goals and 15 assists in 33 games. The players selected for the Spengler Cup team have had a lot of success in their respective European leagues.

Leading the team behind the bench is former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. He is joined by last year's Spengler Cup head coach Sean Simpson and former NHL forward Doug Shedden. Simpson is the head coach for Zurich in the Swiss Elite League, while Shedden is the head coach for Zug of the Swiss Elite League.

Yesterday was the opening game for Canada as they squared off against HC Energie Karlovy Vary from the Czech Republic. While Canada had only been together since Christmas Eve, they faced Karlovy Vary who has been struggling in the Czech Extraliga. Currently, they sit 12th out of fourteen teams in the Extraliga.

Both teams were a little shaky with lots of turnovers. Michal Dobron opened the scoring for EKV with three minutes to play in the opening period, but Mike Siklenka responded for Canada with one minute to go. Both teams took a 1-1 draw into the first intermission.

Jaroslav Kristek scored his first of two on the day just six minutes in. Consecutive goals by Shawn Heins and Travis Roche put Canada up 3-2. Kristek evened the score just a few minutes later with his second goal. Kurtis McLean put the Canadians back up by one, but the Czech squad responded with two goals before the end of the period. Former NHLer Dmitry Zyuzin and Lukas Pech gave EVK a 5-4 lead after 40 minutes.

The third period saw both teams doing all they can to try and steal a victory. Mark Bell notched a goal in the opening seconds of the period to even the game at 5-5. Alexandre Daigle gave Canada the lead just before the halfway mark of the third period, but EVK responded with a goal from Jan Kostal just three minutes later. Both teams battled to the final buzzer, and overtime solved nothing as neither team gave an inch.

In the shootout, Dubielewicz stopped former NHLer Zigmund Palffy, Lukas Pech, and Jaroslav Kristek. Serge Aubin scored on Canada's second shot, and the Canadians earned a hard-fought but sloppy 7-6 shootout win.

Canada will be in action again tomorrow as they play the host HC Davos club from Switzerland. Davos defeated HC Dynamo Minsk from the KHL last night by a 3-2 score, and defeated EVK today by a 5-3 score. Canada will need to play better in their own end to keep pace with the speedy Davos players. Former Blackhawk Reto Von Arx leads Davos in points with four (2-2) and former Panther Juraj Kolnik leads Davos in goals with three.

With the World Junior Championships and the Spengler Cup happening at the same time, this is the best time of year to be a Canadian hockey fan!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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