Journal Entry: January 1st, 2002
There's no time really to celebrate the win over the Swedes in the quarter-final. None at all. Right after the game we had to get our players a meal and then we had to get them to bed. Then the staff have to go over tapes and the reports from the Switzerland-Slovakia game and figure out our game plan. It's not a nightmare but it's a bit of a hassle having to do our usual prep work and having to pack up and move from the arena and the town that we've played in through the first round and the quarter-final, Hradec Kralove, to Pardubice down the road. After the game our playesr were lugging equipment, crates, bags, onto the bus. Maybe it's good, just to keep the guys on business.
There are going to be people surprised that our semi-final opponents are the Swiss but I'm not. Even though the Swiss only have four players drafted and the Slovaks have a bunch of kids who are stars in the CHL, Switzerland is clearly the most improved nation at this level of hockey. They won the bronze in the under-20s a few years back in Helsinki and they won the silver medal in the world under-18s last spring--and they were beaten by a Russian team that had Ilya Kovalchuk. Obviously the Swiss are doing something right with their development program.
Before the quarter-finals our kids were understandably nervous. It's the standard line--a four-game regular season and three Game 7s--but there's a lot of truth to it. It's a big leap to go from that opening round into the quarter-final. It's a bigger leap than going from the quarters to the semis or even the semis to the final. The quarters are in a lot of ways the toughest of all, that "hump" game that you have to get over.
Some people might have wondered if we were going to get over that hump and into the semi-final when we got behind 2-0 to Sweden last night. This was a better team than the one that took us to overtime in the bronze-medal game in Moscow last year. They were much more aggressive. They did a lot of good things, setting high picks, playing aggressively. There's a lot of talk about Swedish teams playing the neutral-zone trap, soft defensive hockey. But this team pinched a lot and was very aggressive in the the forecheck. The Swedes were full value for their win against the Czechs the other day and they didn't get out to a 2-0 lead against us by accident.
Still we believe we have a lot of character on this team. I really think we proved it tonight. You'll see other players on other teams let down when there's a score. Mike Cammallieri came through for us in a big way again, scoring our opening goal right off the faceoff after the Swedes jumped out in front by two goals. We had a lot of other guys step as the game went along. Jay Bouwmeester has really stepped here--just a tremendous game for us. Scottie Upshall took a penalty after the first Swedish goal that wasn't what we wanted at all but he bounced back from that and he bounced back from taking a hard hit and played his heart out. I could go right through the line-up.
The tournament is down to the short strokes now. Our guys have responded so far. We have a bunch of players, our key guys, who were in this position last year in Moscow. I have confidence that we're a better team than last year. And a wiser team for the experience of being close last year.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications