Team Canada met the press today to discuss the upcoming meeting with Russia for gold in the 2003 IIHF World U-20 Championship in Halifax. The impressive Russian squad is looking to repeat its success at last year’s tournament, where it defeated Canada 5-4. Team Canada’s captain Scottie Upshall is one of four returning players from that Canadian team, and says that loss is definitely on his mind.
“It brings back memories, good memories, but obviously it was heartbreaking at the final buzzer to lose so close last year,” he admitted. Upshall also sees the upcoming game as a chance for redemption. “It’s just a huge chance for me and the three guys from last year. It can be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but with hard work, there’s always a second chance.”
Head Coach Mark Habscheid echoed Upshall’s comments regarding last year: “It wasn’t our day that day. Maybe tomorrow will be our day.” Habscheid gave a glowing assessment of the current Russian squad, eight of whom are returning members of last year’s team.
“They play with a lot of waves and attacks. They come at it with waves and if they don’t get it, they pop the puck back which sometimes can lead to people getting caught flat-footed.” But Habscheid said his players would stick to their game “We respect them, but we want to play our game. We’re happy with our game. We like our game and we want to make sure that we’re not waiting for them and we’re playing our game. And that game is Canadian hockey.” Habscheid said that he wasn’t concerned with his team making mistakes due to nervousness or emotion. “Controlled emotion is a key phrase, you want them to be motivated, but you don’t want them to have paralysis by analysis. You want them to go out there and have fun playing the game they have loved playing for maybe 16 or 17 years.”
Team Canada will enter the game with a fully healthy lineup, a lineup of players that have impressed Habscheid as much for their character as for their play. “These kids are just a tremendous group of players. They really do care about one another. They enjoy spending time together. Throughout this tournament, they’ve stayed a team--and they’ll be a team tomorrow”
As for strategy, Habscheid is keeping his cards close to his chest, not revealing who would start in goal or whether he would be shadowing tournament top scorer Alexander Ovechkin’s line. On winning or losing the big game, however, Habscheid was forthcoming. “Well, we want to win. We came with that goal in mind. We’re wanting to win and that hasn’t changed. We’ve put ourselves in the opportunity to play on the last day, and our goal is to win. Looking at the players, I’m just hoping and praying that they can feel what they should feel because they’ve put so much into it.”
Canada face Russia for the gold medal Sunday night at 20:10 local time.
Game Night Reporter
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