FROM THE POINT
Veteran international player Jan Alston led the way for Canada in a 5-2 opening game victory over Russian powerhouse Metallurg Magnitogorsk on day one of the 2004 Spengler Cup Tournament. Alston scored twice and also added two assists as Canada defeated a team many expected to dominate. Metallurg is in second place in the Russian League and features National Hockey League stars Petr Sykora, Sergei Gonchar and netminder Evgeny Nabokov.
“We expected them to be quick, and they didn’t disappoint,” said Canadian head coach Marc Habschied. “Their transition game was good and they took advantage of a couple of early turnovers we made. I thought we got better as the game went on.”
Certainly there was no doubt that Alston got better. He had taken three minor penalties before the midway point of the game. Russia converted on one of the powerplays.
“I don’t know, I guess maybe that old Canada-Russia thing came into play,” said Alston. “I was really intense heading into this one and I guess maybe a little too intense a couple of times.”
Russia opened the scoring at 15:52 of the first period when Sergei Arekaev went to the net and converted on a pass that bounced off his chest and in behind Canadian netminder Alex Auld. Canada tied it up 26 seconds later when Ryan Gardner fired a shot from just inside the Russian blueline that dipped below the glove of Nabokov.
“I was just trying to shoot it in on goal,” said Gardner, playing in his first Spengler Cup for Canada. “I wanted to get it on net as hard as I could.”
Alston scored his first goal for of the game 42 seconds into the second period. It was another strange one for Canada as Alston batted the puck towards the front of the goal and it hit the back of Nabokov’s leg and spun into the net.
Gonchar replied for Russia at 6:12 as he drilled in a shot from the point on a powerplay that Auld didn’t get a great look at.
“I was certainly aware of Gonchar and some of the other NHL guys when they were out there,” said Canadian netminder Auld. “The thing that makes those guys so good is that they don’t do the same thing everytime. They’re great players.”
Canadian captain Jamie Heward put Canada ahead to stay when he scored on a powerplay at 10:40 of the second period. Randy Robitaille gave Canada a little breathing room early in the third as he crashed the net and stuffed home a rebound after Alston’s shot.
Alston closed out the scoring with an empty net goal with under a minute to go.
The next game for Canada is Monday night (local time) as they face the host club, Davos, who won their opening game 6-1 against Helsinki IFK of Finland. Davos features Boston Bruins’ forward Joe Thornton, Columbus forward Rick Nash and reigning NHL MVP Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightening.
“Our guys are excited. We’ll be ready,” said Habschied.
For more information:
Brad Pascall Vice-President, Hockey Operations