Coach's Journal
-COACHES JOURNAL: JAN 5, 2003

A bitter pill

There are not many words to describe how we as a team feel about our loss to the United States in the Gold Medal game here in Helsinki. We had the game in our grasp, but were unable to finish the Americans off, and ultimately were beaten by a bad bounce - something that can happen in a one game final.

I am very proud of this group of players. Even though they are disappointed, they have delivered another medal to Canada, the sixth year in a row that Canada has won a medal. Never before has this country won medals in six straight junior tournaments, and even though it is not a gold, being in contention every year is not easy.

I think we should also give credit to the United States. The Americans had a strong team, and were a gold medal favourite throughout the tournament. They worked hard throughout the competition, and I congratulate them on their first ever World Junior Championship.

Next year, the U.S. will be the host team and defending champion. Canada will send a strong team to North Dakota, with 13 players from this year eligible to return. I think most of them are already looking forward to it.

Now we will travel home, and return to our various teams. Eventually, the sting of this loss will fade, and we will all be able to look back at what has been a special experience for all of us. Team Canada 2004 is a special group, and the bonds between these players are deep.

There are no words to describe how proud I am of them.

Go Canada Go

 
-COACHES JOURNAL: JAN 4, 2003

The Gold Medal Game.

Getting to this point has been our focus since our players first gathered for the summer evaluation camp inCalgaryin August.  Every decision we have made, every practice we have run, everything we have said to the players has been geared to getting us to this point.

It has been a long journey, adn our players have excelled at every step along the way.  For those who won gold in the 8 nations tournament in Slovakiain the summer of 2002, to the players who won gold at the World Under 18 Championship inRussialast spring, these players have proven themselves to be winners internationally.

I am especially pleased at the way our players have managed their emotions. When it's time to relax, they have been able to have fun, but when it's time to work, their focus and poise have been exceptional.

Our team has been successful playing "our" game:  physical, aggressive and fast, but controlled and disciplined at the same time.  I firmly believe that if we play that way, there isn't a team in the world that can beat us.

Many of our players know the players from the U.S.well- they play in the same leagues and in some cases are teammates.  I think both sides have been watching each other from a distance, and have been looking forward to this gold medal showdown.

We know the country is watching, and we know what the expectations are- this destination has been on our mind for a long, long time.  Let's take the final step.

GoCanadaGo!

 
-COACHES JOURNAL: JAN 2, 2003

And on to the medal round!

I was a little worried before our game against the Czech Republic, only because we had played two fairly uncompetitive games prior to it.  But I thought our guys really stepped it up a notch, and played the kind of game we need to play to be successful in the tournament.

I really felt that Jeff Tambellini's goal early in the first period was huge, because it forced the Czechs out of their defensive shell and into a more wide open game.  Our power play also did some good things, which will be important in the medal round.

I know first hand how important it is to get a bye into the semi finals.  At the 2002 Memorial Cup, my Victoriaville team had to play two playoff games before facing Kootenay, which had advanced straight to the final.  The Ice- with a young Nigel Dawes on their roster- beat us to the win the tournament. (Nigel has mentioned that to me several times)

Now we have time to heal our bumps and bruises, and avoid a punishing game in the quarter final.  We had a fairly light practice on New Year's Day, running some fun drills to keep the guys loose.

On Friday, we'll get down to business- a hard practice, followed by the Czech/Slovakia game, when we'll learn our semi final opponent. Hard work, discipline and preparation have got us this far.  More of both will get us to our final goal.

Go Canada Go!

 
-COACHES JOURNAL: DEC 29, 2003

Tough to judge this type of performance

I think I speak for everyone involved with our team when I say that I'm glad the game with Ukraine is over.

It's very hard to judge your team's performance against overmatched teams like that, especially when you score on your first two shifts, but overall I thought we kept our structure and played a good team game.  Our power play did some good things, and it was good for some players who hadn't scored in a while to find the net.

We still need to correct some little mistakes, the kind of things that don't hurt you against Ukraine, but the kind that can kill you against the top teams in the Championship.

There will be no more easy games for our guys, which means that after a good practice Tuesday and a visit to the Canadian Embassy, we must be prepared to raise our game and play our best hockey yet.

There is one week left in this tournament, and the hardest part is yet to come, but we have put ourselves in a good position, and the Czech game represents a huge opportunity to take a big step toward our goal.

Go Canada Go!

 
-COACHES JOURNAL: DEC 28, 2003

It's a win, but we can be better

That sums up our feelings after our 7-2 win over Switzerland in a game of this World Junior Hockey Championship. I'm proud of the way our guys came back after giving up the first goal, but there are still areas we need to work on.

On the positive side, several of our players got their first goals of the tournament, and Anthony Stewart and Ryan Getzlaf established themselves as forces to be reckoned with. On the negative side, we were sometimes unfocused, allowing too many turnovers, and giving up odd man rushes.

Our team was coming off an emotional win over Finland in the tournament opener, and Switzerland has never beaten Canada in this event, but it's important for our guys to realize that you must be focused and sharp whenever you step on the ice in a tournament like this.

Our next game is against Ukraine, a country just promoted from the "B" group. These games are difficult- the Ukrainians have been beaten badly in their first two games, and people will expect us to do the same. I expect our guys to step their game up, no matter who they're playing. After seeing the Czech Republic and Finns play in Hameenlinna tonight, it will be very important to use the game against Ukraine to prepare for our final round robin game against the Czechs.

Every game presents challenges. We handled some of them well against the Swiss, but the real hurdles are still to come. We are learning important lessons here, and the goal remains the same: get better every day.

Go Canada Go!

 

COACHES JOURNAL: DEC 26, 2003

A good first step.

After a few nervous jitters, I thought our guys turned in an impressive performance against Finland on Friday.

Before the game, we emphasized three things: play well defensively, play physically for 60 mins, and play a disciplined game.

For the most part, I thought our guys did that, holding Finland to 14 shots,keeping up the physical tempo, and taking very few penalties. There are still things to work on, but for the most part I think we have set a positive tone. Our guys have adjusted well and are looking forward to re-setting our focus on playing the Swiss.

Winning the first game of the tournament is a welcome result, but it is only the first step, and we have a very long way to go, in this event, and as a team.

But we have taken the first step.

Go Canada Go.

 

COACHES JOURNAL: DEC 25, 2003

We have gone through the selection process, the team building, and the travelling to get here, now it's time for the World Junior Hockey Championship to begin.

Our focus right now is on focus itself. The players have gone through a very difficult selection process, and have now had to adjust to life in Europe. Our pre-tournament preparation has taken us from Sweden to rural Finland, and finally to Helsinki on Christmas day.

On Christmas Eve, our players gathered in a ‘Kota’, a wooden shed that resembled a teepee. We gathered around a huge bonfire and presented each other with presents, and then on Christmas day, we practiced for the first time in the arena we will call home. Our dressing room is already crammed with mementos of home, and reminders of what our goals are in the tournament.

We begin with a tough opponent. The Finns are not only playing at home, they are coming off an impressive pre-tournament win, 4-1 over the United States. They have an NHL calibre goaltender in Hannu Toivonen, and got a big boost when Sean Bergenheim was sent to them by the New York Islanders.

Finland has won medals in each of the last three World Junior Tournaments, and won the gold medal the last time this tournament was held here in 1998- the last host team to win the event. They will be tough, but it will be a great test, a good measuring stick for us.

In many ways the hard part is over, it's up to the players now to simply do what they do best, to do what got them here. If they do that, I have no doubt we will be successful.

Let's get started. Go Canada Go!

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