Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Other Christmas Tournament

I know that the three-lettered television network will devote about 98% of its airtime on Boxing Day to the two pools of 2020 World Junior Championship action, but that other 2% might intrigue you to find a feed on one of the TSN channels. The other annual tournament that runs over the Christmas break is the Spengler Cup that is played in Davos, Switzerland at their fantastic old barn. You may be asking why this tournament should attract more than 2% of your attention span, and I'm here to tell you that Team Canada has a veteran squad with a pile of names you've likely heard a time or two thanks a number of players making the jump overseas to continue their careers.

Team Canada and HC Davos have been the most successful teams at this tournament since it began in 1923. HC Davos has won the Spengler Cup 15 times in 96 years of play while Canada, who started participating in 1984, has also won 15 times. LTC Prague, which hasn't existed since 1949, is the next most successful team with seven Spengler Cup championships between 1929 and 1948. Despite their occasional involvements in the tournaments over the years, the AHL, surprisingly, has never had a winner or runner-up at any tournament.

Team Canada enters the 2019 Spengler Cup with a hunger for being back atop the podium after their runner-up finish one year ago in a 2-1 shootout loss to KalPa of the SM-Liiga. Along with the hosts in HC Davos, Team Canada is joined by HC Ocelari Trinec of the Czech Extraliga in their division. In the other division, Switzerland's HC Ambri-Piotta, KHL's Salavat Yulaev Ufa, and Finland's TPS Turku round out the six-team tournament as one team looks to best the other five in this week-long battle.

I mentioned that Canada had a veteran squad based on names you likely have heard from their days in the NHL, so here are the guys who will wear the Team Canada who logged at least 100 games in NHL rinks: Kris Versteeg, Dustin Jeffrey, Eric Fehr, Scottie Upshall, Cory Emmerton, Daniel Winnik, David Desharnais, Josh Jooris, Paul Postma, Patric Wiercioch, and Andrew MacDonald. You can make some decent lines with solid scoring out of these veterans, but there are still a handful of guys who I haven't mentioned that you should keep an eye on in Adam Tambellini (31 pts in 19 games with MODO), Justin Danforth (83 pts in 90 games with Lukko Rauma), Kevin Clark (45 points in 48 games with Rapperswil-Jona), Ben Maxwell (16 pts in 28 games with Langnau), Chris DiDomenico (72 pts in 42 games with Langnau), Ian Mitchell (69 pts in 98 games at the University of Denver), Alex Grant (52 pts in 94 games with Jokerit Helsinki), and Maxim Noreau (47 pts in 73 games with Zurich SC). DiDomenico and Noreau are perennial Team Canada Spengler Cup members, and it seems that the additions made with some of these lesser-known guys in North America put Team Canada as one of the favorites if scoring was the only factor determining wins and losses.

Goaltending might be the weakest link for Canada as the three netminders who were selected have a total of zero NHL games between them. That being said, Zach Fucale is back after a couple of solid Spengler Cup showings in the last few tournaments, so Canada does have a returning body in the crease who has seen the action of the Spengler Cup level. Joining him in what appears to be the back-up role is Rockford IceHogs goalie Matt Tomkins as the former Ohio State University Buckeye gets his first shot at the international level after playing 14 AHL games in the last two seasons. In six games this season with Rockford, Tomkins is 4-2-0 with a 2.66 GAA and a .912 save percentage - the best numbers of his young professional career by far.

The third man in the crease who will likely be relegated to the press box unless there's an injury is University of Alberta Golden Bears goaltender Brendan Burke. What makes Burke's selection a little confusing is that Burke's place of birth is listed as Scottsdale, Arizona, and he has worked with Hockey USA in their National Junior Evaluation Camps. Burke, however, played in the WHL, is enrolled at a Canadian University, and has a Canadian dad who played in the NHL named Sean Burke who, coincidentally, is the general manager for the Team Canada Spengler Cup entry! Nepotism aside, Burke follows in the footsteps of the University of Saskatchewan's Jordon Cooke in 2016 as being the lone U SPORTS player invited to Davos, and that invitation is leveraged by the fact that Burke, like Cooke at the time, may be the best goalie in the Canadian university circuit. With Alberta this season, Burke is 8-0-0 with a 1.95 GAA, a .906 save percentage, and two shutouts in helping Alberta to a 14-2-0 record and a #2-ranking in the U SPORTS Top Ten. Needless to say, Brendan is looking a lot like his dad in how good he protects the net.

Here are the Canadian forwards for the 2019 Spengler Cup with numbers and current team.
  • #9 Adam Tambellini - MODO (Sweden)
  • #10 Kris Versteeg - HK Nitra (Slovakia)
  • #15 Dustin Jeffrey - Lausanne HC (Switzerland)
  • #16 Eric Fehr - Genève-Servette HC (Switzerland)
  • #17 Justin Danforth - Lukko Rauma (Finland)
  • #19 Scottie Upshall - HC Ambri-Piotta (Switzerland)
  • #25 Cory Emmerton - Lausanne HC (Switzerland)
  • #26 Daniel Winnik - Genève-Servette HC (Switzerland)
  • #32 Kevin Clark - SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (Switzerland)
  • #49 Ben Maxwell - SCL Tigers (Switzerland)
  • #51 David Desharnais - HC Fribourg-Gottéron (Switzerland)
  • #86 Josh Jooris - Lausanne HC (Switzerland)
  • #89 Chris DiDomenico - SLC Tigers (Switzerland)
Here are the Canadian defencemen for the 2019 Spengler Cup with numbers and current team.
  • #4 Paul Postma - HC Lugano (Switzerland)
  • #5 Ian Mitchell - University of Denver (NCAA)
  • #20 Alex Grant - Jokerit Helsinki (KHL)
  • #28 Patrick Wiercioch - HC Bolzano (Italy)
  • #47 Andrew MacDonald - SC Bern (Switzerland)
  • #56 Maxim Noreau - ZSC Lions (Switzerland)
Here are the Canadian goalies for the 2019 Spengler Cup with numbers and current team.
  • #1 Brendan Burke - University of Alberta (U SPORTS)
  • #30 Zach Fucale - Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL)
  • #31 Matt Tomkins - Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
The team will be coached by former NHL and KHL head coach Craig MacTavish while Paul Coffey will fill the assistant coach's role. As stated above, Sean Burke is the general manager for the team with Shane Doan as a part of the management group.

Group A, consisting of HC Ambri-Piotta, Salavat Yulaev Ufa, and TPS Turku, kick off the tournament on December 26 at 9:10am ET/8:10am CT with HC Ambri-Piotta hosting Salavat Yulaev Ufa before Team Canada takes the ice in their Group B game as the visitors against HC Ocelari Trinec at 2:15pm ET/1:15pm CT. The losers of those two games play on December 27 with the Group A losing team meeting TPS Turku at 9:10am ET/8:10am CT while the Group B losing team meets HC Davos at 2:15pm ET/1:15pm CT. December 28 sees the winners of the December 26 games back in action as the Group A winning team plays TPS Turku at 9:10am ET/8:10am CT while the Group B winning team plays HC Davos at 2:15pm ET/1:15pm CT.

From there, the quarterfinals on December 29 see crossovers as the third-place team in Group B meets the second-place team in Group A at 9:10am ET/8:10am CT while the afternoon game sees the third-place team in Group A meeting the second-place team in Group B at 2:15pm ET/1:15pm CT. The semifinal games on December 30 have the winner of the GB3-GA2 game play the Group B first-place team at 9:10am ET/8:10am CT while the GA3-GB2 winner plays the Group A first-place team at 2:15pm ET/1:15pm CT. The final will happen on December 31 at the bleary-eyed time of 6:10am ET/5:10am CT between the last two teams left standing.

It should be another great tournament over in Davos, Switzerland. If you're wondering who is playing on the other teams, look for Matt D'Agostini and Marco Muller playing with HC Ambri-Piotta, Linus Omark and Alexander Burmistrov playing with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Lauri Korpikoski and Zach Budish playing with TPS Turku, David Musil and Lukas Krajick playing with HC Ocelari Trinec, and Aaron Palushaj and Mattias Tedenby playing with HC Davos. These guys have all spent time in the NHL and AHL here in North America, so there are some names in each game that you'll recognize.

I say it every year, but, along with the World Junior Championship tournament, this might be the most wonderful time of the year for hockey fans!

UPDATE: Matthew Maione (Dinamo Minsk - KHL) and Blair Riley (Cardiff Devils - EIHL) were added to the roster on Monday! Maione just joined Minsk, and has recorded no points in three games while Blair Riley, who has a ton of AHL experience, has 19 points in 22 games with Cardiff!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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