World Championships, Division I, Group A
(Jack Barron, 07-apr 2001) Last week, the main French headlines concerned Grenoble. No, feel reassured, they didn't have a sudden passion for the fastest sport on Earth and for the World Chmpionships Division I host by this city. They covered the trial of the Order of the Solar Temple, this sect whose members perished in fire in order to cross a stage towards a higher level of consciousness and to join a better world: Sirius star.
In the same time, another sect with strange followers dressed in blue had its wings burned in a similar experience: French national team. Don't mock too quickly the credulity of those people. They really thought that this tournament would only be a stage towards a higher level, and that, in the beyond, they would join a wonderful world: Pool A.
The Solar Temple recruited its followers in France, in Switzerland and in Canada. For its part, France gathered players from France, Switzerland (Bozon and Huet from Lugano) and North America (promising Treille and Meunier from Mass-Lowell University in Massachussets). There was also one guy from Great Britain (Manchester's Allard) but no one from Germany (Briand, Barin and Ouellet were all injured).
Yet, contray to the Solar Temple, no guru told fake promises to the followers from the Blue Temple: their coach Heikki Leime even said once he aimed at Pool A... within two years. The problem is nobody believed him when he said that. France would finish first in the tournament it organized, that was a certainty.
The preparation against Pool A nations (Finland, Latvia, Germany) was an eyewash: French weren't ready to take on the responsibility of the game against weaker nations. They heard too often that Poland and Denmark were the two most dangerous rivals and neglected the so-called mere formalities (the Netherlands and Hungary). So their hopes had already vanished before the presumed decisive games.
It was a godsend for the Polish who were almost qualified in Pool A (they just had to beat Lithuania, they did it 13-2) the night of their game against Denmark, after three matches only. They deserved this promotion as they acomplished a perfect tournament... during four games two thirds. Indeed, at the end of the second period against France, their goal wasn't allowed because of a refereeing error: the linesman shouldn't have made the face-off as the French weren't ready and had only three players n the ice instead of three. They were disconcerted by the incident and took three goals in the beginning of the third period. Until then, they were very disciplined defensively. The national team comeback of 39-year old Andrzej Schubert proved to be very useful.
France took the second place by defeating Denmark and Poland and wonder all the more why they failed in previous games. The young and inexperienced defence often let Cristobal Huet alone and disarmed facing breakaways. The offense too often lie on Bozon to score goals. After the game against the Netherlands, Leime changed the lines, but Maurice Rozenthal (with Bozon and Pouget) and Laurent Gras (on the sides of Meunier and Treille) found perfectly their marks... only in the last game, far too late. In Briand's absence (wrist injury in the last DEL game with Augsburg), Barin was perfect in the role of linemate for Bozon and Pouget during the friendly game against Germany... before he was injured in the shoulder. Another serious problem for Frenchmen: they opened their games disastrously, which provowked a chain reaction. Once they were led, they rushed over the puck and forgot tactics and physical play in neutral zone, especially against Hungary. Now, French ice hockey has to learn to do the splits: under 20 are in the world elite, but under 18 two levels below. The national team will participate to the Olympic Games, but has to wait another season in this division I.
Denmark was disappointing too. Like his nervous leader (Kim Staal, game misconduct against France), the rising team in the last years lose its momentum because they took too many penalties: they offered, against both Poland and France, a two-man advantage which enabled their opponents to go ahead. Sure they are frustrated because they always miss the good wagon, but they will have to change their attitude if they wan to reach Pool A at last.
A contrario Hungary was a good surprise: win over France is now a reference for Tamas Gröschl team-mates, but they also proved their value in other games, especially against the Netherlands (8-2). The Dutch team lacked this consistency and had only one good game against France. They have a better first line than the Hungarians with Tom Hartogs and the Dutch/Canadians, but they really lack depth when you consider the rest of the roster.
As for Lithuania, they were very far from the best nations, but lost only by one goal to the Dutch and the Hungarians. Nevertheless, the two-figure scores in the other group showed the new division I is not necessarily a good idea. Former eight-team Pool B could have engendered a enthrilling, tighter tournament.
Canadian team in 2002 won't have Joseph riding pine like in '98
(From Edmonton Journal - Thu 9th November 2000)
Take this to the bank for 2002 in Salt Lake City. Curtis Joseph will either be the starter or the backup because his Leaf coach Pat Quinn is running the Team Canada bench.
Patrick Roy, even if he has more wins than anyone, might not even be one of the three goalies taken. Eddie Belfour, who plays for Canadian assistant coach Ken Hitchcock, and Marty Brodeur, who has two Cup rings, may be ahead of Roy.
"The biggest thing about Nagano was we didn't have (Paul) Kariya and (Joe) Sakic (against the Czechs) ... and we really missed their scoring touch," said Gretzky. Kariya missed the 1998 tournament with a concussion after Gary Suter cross-checked him on the jaw in a Chicago-Anaheim game. Sakic pulled his groin in Nagano. Both would have been on the five-man shootout against Hasek.
In '98, Rob Zamuner was the most shocking selection, a role player from Tampa Bay. But he'd played well for Canada in the world championship, so was rewarded. You won't see Zamuner on this team, but you might see a surprise pick like John Madden from New Jersey. He's a great penalty killer, can skate and, heck, he scored four goals in a game this year.
There'll be new blood for sure. Kids like Vincent Lecavalier and fellow centre Joe Thornton, maybe Anson Carter from Boston, who's versatile. Ryan Smyth, strong at the worlds last spring, has Team Canada assistant director Kevin Lowe as his booster. Smyth epitomizes what Canada wants -- a go, go guy like John Tonelli was on the '84 Canada Cup team.
"We're going to have some young players on the team," said Lowe, "but it's best to also have some people who've been to the Olympics before ... guys who can stand up in the dressing room and say what it's like."
If you're looking for a 23-man lineup, here's what an early roster might look like.
Goal: Joseph, Belfour, Brodeur.
Defence: Chris Pronger, Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Wade Redden, Rob Niedermayer, Ed Jovanovski and Richard Matvichuk.
Forwards: Kariya, Sakic, Mark Recchi, Keith Primeau, Lecavalier, Thornton, Smyth, Brendan Shanahan, Eric Lindros, Madden, Carter, Jarome Iginla and Jeff Friesen.
The problem facing Canada is the same as the U.S. team. Some players may be too old in 2002. Like Ray Bourque. Al MacInnis. Scott Stevens. Steve Yzerman. But there's excuse for experience. Gretzky was 37 in '98 in Nagano and was one of the best players. Who knows if all the blows to Lindros's head will drive him from the game before Salt Lake City?
Jim Matheson, Journal Hockey Writer, Edmonton Journal
EH Tour: Ceska Pojistovna Cup
Authors: © ada, Mishanek, Mixal, Regina
Language correction: Chad the Cuddly Wolf
The first tournament of the Euro Hockey tour, the Ceska Pojistovna Cup, took
place in Zlin and formed the opening games of the season for the national
teams of Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. It was the Finns
who emerged victorious, beating the Swedes and Russians in penalty shootouts
and only losing to the Czech team in overtime. The Swedes finished second
beating the Czechs and Russians on penalties and Russians took the third
place by beating the Czech Republic.
Mixal, Mishanek, Regina and ada watched the teams closely and here are their views.
FINLAND by Mixal
The best part of the Finnish team was its goaltending. Both Niittymäki and
Nurminen played brilliantly, as expected of course. It's great to notice
that when the older guys are going past their best down (like Sulander),
there will be even better young goaltenders coming up to replace them. The
biggest positive performances were from forwards Kimmo Kuhta and Jukka
Hentunen. Everybody else could have gone to hell in my opinion. Kauppila was
good in the first game, but completely invisible against the Czechs. This
was mostly just a try-out team of possible future national team players.
Because of this, winning the tournament was a great accomplishment for the
team. Expect the Finns to have a much better team in the next tournament of
Euro Hockey Tour.
SWEDEN by Mishanek
Tre Kronor, in order to throw aside their reputation of a team that plays
the ugliest defensive hockey from the top four, brought a new tactical
approach. When both teams played at full strength, there was only one
defenseman in a yellow-blue jersey on the ice. Two forwards in front of him
played something like "midfielders" and two others were forechecking
opponents. Really, the Swedish play looked much better and positive, it
seemed that Swedes really want to forget their terrible last season.
The Swedes also find a new star in goal, young Mikael Tellqvist. He was the
only possible choice as best goalie of the tournament. Greger Artursson
shone at the heart of the Swedish defence, especially in the first game when
he spent more than 40 minutes on ice.
Christian Berglund was the best Swedish forward and was rewarded with an
All-Star selection. He shows a lot of promise at 20 years old and his
skating is excellent. It seems that although in Tre Kronor there are still
many older players, the best two forwards were Berglund and another
teenager, left wing Henrik Zetterberg. He scored the most exciting goal of
the tournament, which reminded world famous Peter Forsberg's goal from
Lillehamer. Good play could be seen also from Mikael Renberg, despite not
managing to score.
RUSSIA by Regina
The national team in the year 2000 is very different of the Jakushev`s team
in that there were players from Russian league there. After many years the
CSKA's line (Boykov-Boychenko-Makarov) was the best in again . These players
substituted the Dynamo line (Kharitonov-Prokopiev-Kuwaldin) from last year.
Only the captain remained unchanged, Alexandr Prokopjev ("Avangard" Omsk)
is the -permanent leader of the team. The Russian press wrote before the
tournament that "The national team was substituted. Now they
need minimum a half of year to get to understand each other ." But Boris
Michailov and Gennady Cigurov made sure that the lines were made of players
from the same club, a tactic that proved to be successful. There were some
problems with the forwards - they had many opportunities to score goals, but
they didn`t manage it. Maxim Sokolov, the goalkeeper from St.-Petersburg,
the trust of the coaches and was very reliable in net. The Russian fans
didn't see games in the Czech Republic because of the fire in
Ostankino. But the results were unexpected for fans, press and hockey
experts. It gives hope, that 11th place is not all the Russian team can
CZECH REPUBLIC by ada
The Ceska Pojistovna Cup showed that the Czech team will have a hard
struggle to stay at the top of international hockey. It is common that after
some great success the Czechoslakian team was heavily beaten. The late 1990s
were different, but the Czechs miss Cechmanek, Kucera, Sykora, Vlasak and
many other players who left for NHL. The Czech play in the tournament was
not as bad as the result indicates but the main problem was that the Czech
goaltenders were weaker than their opponents. Cajanek had a surprisingly
good tournament when playing between wingers Okal and Mikeska. The best
performance came from Michal Mikeska. He was an unknown who had until
recently played in the second league but replaced the ill Martin Prochazka
and took his chance with both hands, turning in an amazing performance. At
the back, in the game against Sweden, defender Libor Zabransky was
noticeable for his terrible errors and was absolutely pathetic in the other
games. He was on ice for almost all the goals scored against the Czech
team. The first line of Robert Reichel and Martin Rucinsky had a lot of ice
time after both Litvinov players refused offers from NHL clubs. However,
the line scored only one goal in the whole tournament (the winning goal in
overtime against Finland) but were disappointing, and expected to be better