Steven Ellis

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Steven took a different route towards his hockey interests. Starting out as a big Habs fan, he started to gravitate towards the more obscure levels of hockey, such as the low level tournaments in Asia, strange club matches between teams most people in North America can’t pronounce, and even some 3am contests between Bulgaria and New Zealand. Aside from his love for strange hockey events, Steven occasionally acts as a mediocre ball hockey goalie following a failed attempt at making it to the NHL as a fourth line house league grinder. Beyond hockey, Steven is an avid racing fan and loves to chat about NASCAR, F1, Indycar, you name it. Oh, and don’t get him started on music. That is, unless you want the whole history of metal and a guitar lesson. Currently, Steven is a credentialed media member with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, as well as with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. Steven has also hosted the television show "The Hockey House" on TVCogeco in Ontario, as well as a segment under the same with on LeafsTV in Toronto. Home page: http://www.thehockeyhouse.net

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swiss-image.ch/Photo Andy Mettler

When the 2015 IIHF Division IB World Championships begin in mid-April, the Croatian national team could feature as many as eight Canadian’s on their roster thanks to an additional three getting named to the provisional roster this week.

Former NHL prospects Mark Dekanich, Mike Glumac and Andrew Murray were all named to their first World Championship roster in hopes of helping the Croatian team advance to Division IA for 2016.

For all three, the players became eligible to play for Croatia at the end of the KHL regular season after being naturalized for playing with Croatian KHL team Medvescak Zagreb over the past two seasons. Dekanich, who saw a game of action with the Nashville Predators a few seasons back, spent five seasons playing professional hockey in the American Hockey League before signing a contract with Zagreb in 2013. A multi-award winning NCAA puckstopper, Dekanich recorded zero wins in 12 games this year in what turned out to be a goaltending nightmare, using five goaltenders throughout the season.

Glumac spent parts of three seasons with the St. Louis Blues, totaling 13 points in 40 games. His best North American pro experience came during his time in the AHL, recording 336 points in 464 games, which included two seasons of 57 points with the Peoria Rivermen. Considered to be best in a depth position, Glumac has 16 points split over two KHL seasons with Zagreb.

Once an eighth round selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Murray saw the most action in the NHL of the three, scoring 40 points in 221 games with the Blue Jackets, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues. A captain with Zagreb, Murray finished his NCAA career with Bemidji State University with 115 points in 128 games, good for ninth all-time in the history of the school. Like Glumac, Murray is considered to be more of a bottom six player, having recorded just 13 points in 105 games.

Last year, the country had the likes of Andy Sertich (USA), Geoff Waugh (CAN), Alan Letang (CAN, current player/assistant coach) and Kenny MacAulay (CAN) represent the national team at the Division 1B World’s, helping the team win silver. This year, the team could also get help from Canadian’s Ryan Kinasewich, Nathan Perkovich and Joel Prpic, who have all seen action already in North America over the past few seasons.

Croatia will begin the Division IB World Championships with a game against Great Britain on April 13th, with the event set to conclude on April 19th. The team with the most points at the end will be promoted to the 2016 Division IA World Championships, while the last-ranked team will be relegated to DIIA.

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Chinese Taipei are champions once again.

In what was easily the top contest in the entire event, Chinese Taipei pulled off the superb comeback in the third period to defeat the United Arab Emirates 5-4. The victory on Thursday capped off an in impressive four game unbeaten streak, which all started with a 30-0 victory over Macau earlier in the week.

The game started off on a negative note just 45 seconds into the contest for the eventual champions. Right off the bat, To Weng was ejected from the contest after hitting an opposing player in the head on the very first shift of the game. Despite leaving his team with a five minute penalty kill, UAE managed to keep the scoreless game in tact when it was all said and done, largely due to the play of Ahmed Al Dhaheri in net. The Challenge Cup of Asia’s top goaltender, Al Dhaheri made 20 saves in the first period alone, finishing the game with 58 stopped chances, the most he’s had to stop throughout the tournament.

Despite a solid effort in the first for Al Dhaheri, Taipei would still finish the period with a two goal advantage. That all changed in the first five minutes of the second period, as a quick barrage of chances, including two on the power-play, converted into goals for UAE to take the 3-2 lead. Taipei would get a PP goal of their own, when captain Yen-Chin Shen added to his goal from the first period by scoring one with the extra man in the second, proving that Taipei wasn’t about to just back down. The Emirates would once again take the lead, as Omar Al Shamisi gave his opponents a big scare by scoring a shorthanded 5-on-3 goal, giving his team the 4-3 advantage heading into the third period.

Chinese Taipei was desperate to fight back and excite the fans at the Annex Ice Rink in Taipei City. The team took more shots than in the first two periods, forcing Al Dhaheri to face 26 shots by the end of the frame. Taipei would eventually beat him for the tying goal with seven and a half minutes to go when tournament leading scorer Lifeng Lu scored on the power-play. Taipei knew that Lu would need to shine when it counted the most, and with an additional two assists earlier on, he surely wasn’t ready to disappoint. The game looked like it could all be decided in a sudden death situation, but a huge goal by Lu with seven minutes to go allowed the home team to take their third straight championship and fifth overall.

Chinese Taipei may be the most dominant team in the tournament, but a lack of funds has prevented the team from participating in anything stronger. According to the IIHF, there are only 70 registered men’s players, while the women’s team has 102 to choose from. The national junior team will be participating in the countries final IIHF event of the year soon, when the team will look to earn promotion from the Men U18’s at the upcoming Division IIIA championships next week.

For the United Arab Emirates, the story is slightly different. The team, who were champions at the 2014 Gulf Cup Championships last year, will participate at the Division III World Championships in early April. The team continues to grow in participation each year, and more medal performances such as the silver they earned this week will surely help promote the game in the developing hockey nation.

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In the least-shocking news of the day, the United Arab Emirates and hosts Chinese Taipei will play in the finals for the Challenge Cup of Asia after big wins on Wednesday.

UAE were fortunate enough to be taking on the lowest ranked team heading into the event, Macau. Macau, who lost 30-0 to Taipei earlier in the tournament, would only record eight shots against UAE on Tuesday, a game that resulted in a disappointing 7-0 loss. UAE, on the other hand, took 22 shots in all three periods, scoring 3, 3 and 2 goals respectively. Mohammed Al Dhaheri led the team offensively, chipping in two goals while captain Juma Al Dhaheri also recorded two points himself. The team, which is looking for their third tournament championship, and first since 2012, will be looking for a solid finish ahead of their World Championship appearance next month, making them the only team in the CCoA to participate in the World’s this year.

For Taipei, the home team came in with a lot of excitement. After winning the previous two championships, the team came in expecting to dominate. That’s exactly what they’ve done since game one against Macau, and a 8-2 victory over Mongolia today helped prove that case. Taipei’s game didn’t start off one-sided today, as Mongolia managed to score a goal to make it 2-1 at the end of the first period. The third period really was when the game fell apart, as the two teams combined for 90 penalty minutes in the third alone. Taipei absolutely controlled the action in the second, and while Mongolia did score on their nine second power-play, Taipei really made Mongolia pay by exploiting their weaknesses late in the contest. The game resulted in an 8-2 victory for Taipei, who are hoping to win their third straight tournament championship, their fifth all-time.

The deciding game, which isn’t classified as a championship game due to tournament format, is set to go 7am EST.

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Team Thailand has grabbed their first hockey win of the year, defeating Macau by a score of 4-1 on Tuesday to earn three points at the Challenge Cup of Asia.

In a battle between the two weakest teams at the tournament, there wasn’t a whole lot to expect. Macau’s most recent contest saw them drop a 30-0 decision, the highest of the tournament to date. Thailand, on the other hand, played to a 9-0 smokefest against the hosts from Taipei City, the second biggest deficit of the event to date.

Regardless of previous action, the two teams came in to the game knowing that this game could have been the difference between finishing 4th and finishing dead last in 5th. With that in mind, Thailand’s Arhit Thamwongsin got the ball rolling with a goal 10:50 into the contest, giving the team in the darker jerseys the 1-0 lead. The game winning goal was scored six minutes after that as Tewin Chartsuwan fired one past Chan Wa Tong, giving Thailand the 2-0 lead.

Thailand was able to score an additional two goals in the second frame, a period that saw the team fire 24 shots towards Wa Tong. Macau was able to get one of their own in the third, as Katsuyoshi Shinoda gave his country just their second goal of the tournament, but at that point it was too late as Thailand finished with the 4-1 victory.

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Mongolia may have had control of the shot count at the end, but the United Arab Emirates made those most of their chances by grabbing the 6-1 victory to improve to 2-0.

Mongolia knew they weren’t the favourites heading into the contest, but they knew if they stood a chance, they’d have to pepper Ahmed Al Dhaheri with shots from everywhere. They were able to fire 15 shots towards Al Dhareri in the first, but a late shorthanded marker from Juma Al Dhaheri helped give UAE The 1-0 lead after a period of action.

The second period saw UAE start to really take control of the game, finishing the period with the 3-0 advantage. Yahya Al Jneibi scored quickly in the second, potting a goal just nine seconds after Mongolia’s period-opening penalty resulted in no goals. Three minutes later, Mongolia’s ongoing parade to the box hurt them on the scoreboard as Omar Al Shamisi put one past the Mongolian netminder to secure the 3-0 lead before the game was half over.

The Emirates were able to add an extra three goals late in the game, but the real story wasn’t the offense. With four minutes to go, Juma Al Dhaheri hit an opposing player from behind, causing a scrum immediately afterwards. The hit resulted in a game misconduct, meaning one of UAE’s best players will be forced to sit out the Emirates game against Macau on Tuesday. Luckily, Macau comes in as the lowest ranked team in the event so they should be fine, and with a 2-0 record to start the Challenge Cup of Asia, UAE should be fine once the tournament gets down to the wire.

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Chinese Taipei entered the Challenge Cup of Asia with high hopes on home soil this year, and a 30-0 win against Macau to open the event will surely help with their excitement.

Yup, 30-0.

I’ll spare you the details of all 30 goals, but there were some players that really stood out. And shockingly, those two players weren’t on Taipei. Macau’s two goaltenders, Tong Wai Vong and Wa Chan Tong, combined for an incredible 66 saves on 96 shots on Sunday. 30 goals against is never a positive, but the fact that the two goalies, who don’t play professional hockey anywhere, could make that many saves is impressive.

Last year, Te Lin Chu led Macau to the gold medal at the 2014 Division I Challenge Cup of Asia with a 3-2 effort, giving his team the surprise championship. The victory earned Macau a spot in the top division for this year, but Chu was unable to represent the team this year, leaving Wai Vong and Chan Tong with the responsibility of tending the net.

Wai Vong saw the most amount of action, allowing 20 goals on 55 shots for 35 saves in just under two full periods of action. Wa Tong played just a full period of action, allowing ten goals on 41 shots as Taipei really began to pepper the Macau net with shots. Surprisingly, neither goalie would come out with the Best Player award for Macau, with defenseman Chon Kong Leong taking the award at the end of the game.

It is worth pointing out that Macau came to the tournament severely underfunded. Unlike Chinese Taipei, who dressed 22 players on Sunday, Macau only had 18 players available to them due to costs. Macau will look to soften the blow when they take on Thailand on Tuesday, who dropped a 5-2 decision to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

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The United Arab Emirates wouldn’t allow an early deficit to effect them later on, defeating Thailand by a score of 5-2 in their first game of the 2015 Challenge Cup of Asia.

Despite the Emirates coming in as the clear favourites, Thailand somehow managed to grab the 2-0 lead in the first period. At 8:25 in the first, Kittiphat Ongvisagepaiboon ripped a shot from the point, giving his Thai team the 1-0 lead to start the contest. The Emirates were hoping that the goal was only a product of having the extra man, but a goal by Thailand’s best forward Panithi Nawasmittawong just four minutes later really put the heat on the favourites to win the contest.

UAE was lucky enough to get one before the end of the first. With two minutes remaining, Juma Al Dhaheri fired one home after taking a pass from Saeed Al Nuaimi to end Prawes Kaewjeen’s shutout bid early. Kaewjeen was recognized as Thailand’s best player at the end of the contest, making 45 saves against a much stronger Emirates roster.

The Emirates were able to get the tie going in the second period, but it was their third period effort that really stood out. Led by Al Nuaimi, who scored two goals, the team managed to take the 5-2 lead with seven minutes to go, putting the game away thanks to the three goal advantage. As close as it may have been for UAE, they were only able to take down Thailand 5-4 last year, proving that these two teams are solid Asian rivals in a championship that doesn’t include many.

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As expected, team Mongolia was able to roll all over Macau on Saturday, taking the 8-1 victory to begin the 2015 Challenge Cup of Asia.

The game was pretty much over by the get go. Macau, who were promoted from Division I last Spring, struggled to really challenge the defending bronze medalists, who were able to score four goals in the opening period. Despite it being Macau’s best period shot wise (10, compared to 3 each in the second and third periods), Mishigsuren Namjil gave Mongolia the two goal advantage with just 8:29 off the clock in the first. Last year, Namjil was one of the top players at the end of the tournament, leading his team in scoring with 11 points in five games. For good measure, his team was able to score two more goals before the end of the opening frame, securing the 4-0 lead heading into the change room.

Mongolia was able to grab the 5-0 lead before the game was half done thanks to a wrist shot by Shinebayar Tsogtoo, but it wouldn’t be long before Macau put an end to Munkhbold Bayarsaikhan’s shutout. Kit Ka Pong gave Macau their only goal of the contest on the power-play with nine minutes to go in the second, giving the team something to cheer about. The lone goal was the only thing the team was able to muster up, as Mongolia scored an additional three goals to finish off the 8-1 victory, giving them a solid start to the annual Asian tournament.

Mongolia will face the United Arab Emirates tomorrow in a game featuring the two current undefeated countries after day one, with puck drop set for 3:30am EST. Macau, on the other hand, will be forced to take on the favourites from Chinese Taipei, who will look to please the home crowd with a victory at 7am EST on Sunday.

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2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia
In Taipei City, Chinese Taipei, March 14th-19th, 2015
Participants: Chinese Taipei, United Arab Emirates, Mongolia, Thailand, Macau

Let’s face it, your just thrilled about the Challenge Cup of Asia.

OK, now that you’re done laughing, I’ll cut to the chase. I actually love this tournament. It’s a good chance for many teams to participate in a somewhat-competitive setting in hopes of eventually earning enough funds to compete more consistently. The Challenge Cup of Asia has run every year since 2008, featuring some countries that have eventually moved on to the World Championships. There have been a few different versions of it over the years, including men’s, women’s, U20, U18 and university levels.

On the men’s side this year, there will two divisions, the top group and Division I. With the main event beginning this week in Taipei City, let’s take a look at the five teams that will be battling for gold in Asia’s top hockey tournament of the year.

_dsc1827_1024_thumbChinese Taipei (Last Year: 1st) - Betting against the Chinese Taipei at the Challenge Cup of Asia would be a big mistake. Long story short, they’re one of the best teams not competing in the World Championships. The four time champions return to the ice again this year, looking to win their third straight event after coming in last in 2012 due to a lack of funds.

Fortunately for the favourites, many of the key players from last year will return to the lineup for the 2015 edition. Lifeng Lu is back to defend his scoring title from last year’s tournament, when the speedy forward scored 11 goals and 22 points in just five games. Joining him on the first line is To Weng, the highest scoring forward in the history of the country with 40 career points. Last year, Weng finished with 17 points, the second highest in the tournament. The roster will also be backed by Keng-Pang Ting, the top goalie at the conclusion of the 2014 event. He didn’t have to face many shots last year, making just 57 saves (the lowest of all goalies that played at least four games), but his SP% of .919 was the top when it was all said and done. This year, the team will be just as strong as ever, and hopefully, some more World Championship funding can come out of a big victory this year to help send them to the Division III World’s in 2016.

_dsc2640_1024_thumbUnited Arab Emirates (Last Year: 2nd) – Whenever Chinese Taipei struggles to grab gold, it seems like UAE is always there to take their place. “Team Dubai”, as they are sometimes referred to, participate in the most competitions out of any team in this event. Last year alone, UAE was apart of the Division III World Championships, Gulf Ice Hockey Championships (where they won gold) and the CCoA.

This past summer, it was announced that the country had a 350% increase in hockey participation, putting them second on the IIHF’s five year growth chart. UAE has done a good job with promoting the game within and building a roster solid enough to not get embarrassed at the World Championships, but they still lack a big time goal scorer like some of the other teams. Their top scorer last year, Saeed Al Nuaimi, was only good enough for seven points, finishing behind six of Taipei’s goal scorers in the final standings. Luckily for UAE, they still have a very solid foundation with all their lines, and the incredible goaltending from Khalid Al Suwaidi will probably help UAE be a contender once the tournament comes to an end. Will they win gold? That’s a stretch, but they’ll surely be battling for a silver at the end.

_dsc3052_1024_thumbMongolia (Last Year: 3rd) - Mongolia may be the only other competitive team in this tournament. Last year, the Mongolians finished with the second most amount of goals, 24, but was still 29 behind Taipei’s mark of 53. The team used to compete in the World Championships many years ago, but things went downhill when they had to pull out of all 2011 IIHF tournaments due to financial trouble and lack of equipment.

This year, the team is looking for more than just a third place result. Their real strength will be up front, as Mishigsuren Namjil will look to build upon his 11 point effort from 2014, good enough to finish tied for third in tournament scoring. Their net presence was less-than-stellar last year, as Munkhbold Bayarsaikhan finished with a .881 SP%, finishing fifth in that category. Their offense shouldn’t completely dry up and ruin their chance at a medal, but their goaltending will need to really step it up if they hope to battle for a bronze this time around.

_dsc3557_1024_thumbThailand (Last Year: 4th Place) – Thailand has had a rough few years in the hockey world. Not including being a ghost to most hockey fans, the country has struggled at the Challenge Cup of Asia over the past two years after four straight years of medals. Led by legendary goal-scorer  Panithi Nawasmittawong, the team will need a little more than just luck to pull through this year. In fact, their second top scorer from last year, Likit Neimwan, wont be attending this year’s tournament, so their scoring will surely take a hit.

If you’re curious about the difference in competition in an event like this, Thailand fell 15-1 to Chinese Taipei last year. They were able to take down Kuwait 10-2 to finish off the tournament last year, giving them their second victory of the event, but an 8-2 loss to the third place Mongolia really put a dampen on their performance. The team lacks any real advantage anywhere on the ice, and even though they’ll have the mighty Pattarapol Ungkulpattanasuk (I had to copy and paste that) between the pipes, don’t expect much success to land in Thailand’s favour.

nur_6805_1024_thumbMacau (Last Year: 1st Place, Division I): It’s just cool to be involved, right Macau? The last time the country took part in the top division of the Challenge Cup of Asia, they lost 11-0 to the eventual champions, Chinese Taipei. The good news? Taipei took down Kuwait 21-0 the day after, so it wasn’t all too bad. They did win the Division I championships last year, however, recording impressive victories against Singapore and Kyrgyzstan to take a surprising gold medal.

There isn’t a whole lot of positives going for the team this year, however. In 44 games, the team averages just two goals a game. Considering the high scoring nature of hockey in this event, Macau will struggle to just stay alive. Macau would love to prove they deserve to be in the top group, but finishing ahead of anyone this year seems like a stretch.

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According to a report from international hockey news website National Teams of Ice Hockey, the second Pan American Ice Hockey Tournament is set to take place from June 3rd-7th.

The tournament, which is set to return to Mexico, was originally a five team event that had it’s debut last March. Last year, Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Mexico and Brazil all took part in the competition, with a team of Canadian selects eventually taking home the gold easily thanks to a 7-0 victory over Mexico in the finals.

There is still no word on which teams will take part in the event, but Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay were all rumored to be interested in the original event. There were some people questioning why Canada was involved in the first place, as the tournament, considered to be a low-level development event, was completely dominated by the Canadians. For some teams, such as Argentina, their roster was filled up of players who could afford the travel to Brazil, and not necessarily the best players from the country.

While it was clear who the top two teams in the tournament were, with Canada and Mexico being the only two ranked IIHF teams in the tournament, it was great for the developing nations to have a chance to play against some higher quality players for a week last year. In Colombia’s case, the team was able to secure their first ever hockey medal,  as American college hockey player Daniel Echeverri was able to lead his team to a bronze medal after defeating Argentina by a score of 9-1. For the bottom three nations last year, the Pan-Am games was the only tournament they would participate in, so competitive action is key for the developing hockey countries.

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USA-born forward Brandon Bochenski will look to play for the Kazakhstan national hockey team this spring, as the former NHLer is currently in the process of receiving a new citizenship.

During his time in the NHL, Bochenski was rarely used as an offensive threat and more as a bottom six depth forward. In 156 career games, Bochenski was only able to muster 68 points with the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks. Since leaving North America in May of 2010, Bochenski has played with the Kazakh KHL team, Barys Astana, where he currently serves as captain. Bochenski has become a very solid KHLer during his time overseas, sitting eighth all time in league scoring with 257 points in 250 games.

Since Bochenski has previously played with the American national team, Bochenski had to spend four consecutive seasons playing in Kazakhstan in order to warrant a transfer. If a player has already competed for one country at an official IIHF tournament, they must require the four year period before being able to transfer to another team that they currently are a citizen for. Just like in the two year case, a player isn’t allowed to compete for their previous country and has to play a minimum of four years in the new country.

Kazkahstan will look to earn promotion back into the top group for 2016 when they take to the ice for the Division IA World Championships in April. The country has failed to stay in the top group for more than a year since their three tournament stint from 2004-2006, bouncing up and down between the top group and Division IA ever since.

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Kruise Reddick’s hat trick led the way for Team Canada, who will advance to 2015 Winter Universiade semi-finals after defeating their American rivals 4-0 on Wednesday.

Reddick was able to grab the game’s first goal with 2:30 left in the first. Reddick has been pretty strong all tournament long for Canada, and a quick move late in the first would later turn out to be the game winning goal. His marker wasn’t the only one of the first, however, as Mitch Maxwell was able to add a second Canadian goal with 1:16 left in the frame to give the team a solid two goal advantage heading into the second.

The second period would see both teams trading penalties, but Canada would have to wait until the third minute of the final period before they could increase their lead. The Americans didn’t put up much of a fight in the third, recording just eight shots compared to Canada’s 21. Reddick was able to score on two of them, potting one 43 minutes into the match, and a second one in the final seconds to help secure the 4-0 victory.

With the victory, Canada will re-visit with the Russians for a semi-final match on Friday. Last week, Canada was able to snag a 5-3 victory against Russia, who have Canada’s toughest opponent to date. The winner of the match will take to the ice on Saturday for the gold medal, while the loser will be forced to play for bronze.

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The Czech Republic had struggled throughout the Euro Hockey Tour campaign over the past two months, but after winning a two game exhibition series against the Russians, the team was finally given a reason to celebrate on home ice.

The Czech’s came into the EHT this past weekend with a winless record after two rounds. With the upcoming World Championships getting held at Prague Arena, the same venue that staged the two teams this weekend, there was a lot of pressure on a lot of bubble players looking to make the Czech roster prior to the big event.

The first game was dominated by the hometown team, who finished the contest with a 3-0 victory. Their second and final victory two days later was a much closer one, however, as a late goal gave the Czech’s the 4-3 win to sweep the weekend series. Not much was expected out of the Russians in this tournament, who’s roster featured many players that participated at the recent World Junior tournament. Regardless, their performance in the second game, featuring a roster with an average age of 23, proved that there is a lot to look forward to in Russian hockey over the next few seasons.

The second EHT tournament took place in Sweden, finishing with mixed reactions. The Finns were able to snag the first game by a score of 1-0, but the game in Vasteras had to be cancelled after 22:34 of action due to a hole in the ice surface. The second game would be more rewarding for the Tre Kronor, who got the game winning goal from 21-year-old national team rookie Martin Johansson to secure the 3-2 victory. The victory was bittersweet for the men in blue and yellow, however, who lost goaltender Markus Svensson, as well as Oskar Sundqvist and Dick Axelsson to injuries.

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Canada will head into the elimination round with high hopes, as the tournament favourites were able to defeat Russia 5-3 at the Winter Universiade on Saturday.

The first period started off very poorly for Canada. 12:07 into the game, Ivan Petrakov put the Russians on the board first with a quick shot that Kris Lazaruk was unable to handle. Canada would fight back with a few good scoring chances of their own before the period came to a close, but a goal with seven minutes left by Calgary Flames prospect Rushan Rafikov, who played well with Russia at the World Juniors earlier this year, gave the underdogs the 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.

Canada’s start to the second period, however, couldn’t have been any better. 27 seconds in, Kruise Reddick gave Canada their first of the game after firing one past Gleb Evdomikov, cutting Russia’s lead to one. Canada was able to eliminate Russia’s lead for the time being after Tyler Fiddler got his first of two goals just over a minute afterwards.

The final ten minutes of the second saw both teams trading goals. First, Egor Krivchenko scored on the power-play to take back the one goal lead for the Russians with 9:44 left in the second, which actually proved to be their final goal. Six minutes after, Canada’s Jesse Craige fired an absolute blast past Eydomikov for the tying marker, setting the stage for what would be a spectacular third period for Canada. Craige would strike again, scoring the game winning goal with just 33 seconds off the clock in the third. Fiddler would score a second goal five minutes later, extending the lead to 5-3 to secure the victory and first place in Group B following a 3-0 record during the preliminary round.

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The Algerian national ice hockey team is looking for your support.

According to the National Teams of Ice Hockey website, Algeria has played in just five official tournament games in their history, losing all five matches at the 2008 Arab Cup in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Since then, the team has struggled to find the funds to compete again, and has been on the sidelines ever since. Unlike in North America, the team is unable to gain funding from the government and have struggled to find the sponsorship needed to continue.

Fortunately, things look to be getting better in Algeria. The country does have a new rink, and the NHLPA has supplied equipment for kids looking to get more involved in the game. However, they still need more money as a whole to help pay for arena costs, uniforms and travel.

As a huge advocate of the international game, I suggest you help support the team. Anything helps, and if it means more countries have a chance at taking part in the game, then it shows that hockey can grow anywhere, from Algeria to Uzbekistan.

You can help support the team through their GoFundMe website here.

Jana Chytilova/HHOF-IIHF Images

Canada had no issue continuing their strong start to the Winter Universiade, capping of their 11-1 win over South Korea with a 7-0 victory over Sweden on Thursday.

Canada and Sweden usually compete in close, intense match-ups, but as the team in red and white proved on Thursday, the “home of hockey” is superior when it comes to the university game. Their first period effort was commanding, as a 23-3 shot advantage for the 2013 tournament champions got the game started on the right foot. Ten minutes into the game, former Vancouver Giant Neil Manning fired the puck past Emil Helin for the 1-0 lead.

A minute after, Canada grabbed a two goal lead on the very next shot. On the play, Chris Collins sent the puck to Kruise Reddick, who slickly sniped the shot behind Helin to double the lead.

Canada controlled the pressure for the remainder of the period, giving the Swedes very little chances at the other end. As a result, a persistent attack allowed Collins to score one of his own, roofing the puck home with 3:09 left to take the commanding 3-0 lead before the period had come to a close.

The second period saw less solid offensive chances by the Canadians, but they wouldn’t finish without securing the 4-0 lead. Just a minute after Cody Cartier rang a quick shot off the post, Elgin Pearce put Canada up by another goal just before time ran out in the third. The team had a strong third period, scoring an additional three goals and finishing the game with a 59-10 shot advantage by the end of the night, completing the game with a 7-0 win to improve to 2-0 in the tournament with a game against Russia on Saturday finishing off the preliminary round.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

The February stage of the Euro Hockey Tour will actually be split into two tournaments. From February 5th-7th, the last place Czech’s will host Russia in a two game exhibition series, while Sweden and Finland will battle it out in the land of the Tre Kronor from the 6th-8th.

Sweden, who won the Karjala Cup in early November, sits in second place overall, just two points behind Russia with 11 points. Finland is behind in third, just a single point behind their Scandinavian rivals, while the Czech’s have struggled big time, grabbing just two points in their first six games with zero wins to their credit.

To get you prepared for the next round of the Euro Hockey Tour, take a look at five players competing this week that you should keep an eye on.

Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

5. Martin Rucinsky, F (Czech Republic): No one is going to dispute that Rucinsky’s role is going to be very limited at this event, but after seeing Petr Nedved and Jaromir Jagr play in recent years, it will be interesting to see what another Czech grey beard can achieve. The oldest player at the tournament, Rucinsky is making his first appearance for the Czech’s in an international competition since the 2006 Winter Olympics. A first round selection by the Edmonton Oilers back in 1991, Rucinsky had 612 points in 961 games, with a career high 60 points coming in 56 games with the Montreal Canadiens back in 1995-1996. Ever since leaving the NHL behind back in 2008, Rucinsky has played in the Czech league, most recently with HC Litvínov. While not a big goal scorer, the experienced forward has proven he is still good for around 25 points a season. Not all that outstanding, but at his age, it’s sure something to keep an eye on.

rostislav-klesla
circlingthewagon.wordpress.com

4. Rostislav Klesla, D (Czech Republic): It’s not everyday we get to see Klesla suiting up for the Czech Republic. In fact, he hasn’t done so since 2007. In recent years, the former fourth overall selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets back in 2000 has gone on to have a very strange career. Last season, Klesla was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Washington Capitals a day before the trade deadline. The next day, the Capitals sent Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres in the Jaroslav Halak deal. The biggest twist, however, came when Klesla announced his retirement from the NHL after not wanting to suit up for the Sabres, and with the way they’ve been playing recently, who could blame him? The 31-year-old defenseman had 159 points and 620 penalty minutes in 659 NHL games, and while he has since become the captain of Czech league team HC Trinec, those numbers will likely remain untouched for the remainder of his career. Still, the physical blue liner is considered to be quite good in the Czech league, and with many teams bringing young guys in hopes of developing a strong national team in the future, Klesla will be able to bring a wealth of experience to the Czech’s, who sit last in the 2014-2015 EHT standings.

Pekka Rautiainen/yle.fi
Pekka Rautiainen/yle.fi

3. Petri Kontiola, F (Finland): Kontiola has had a strange season so far. The 30-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the off-season, but before even seeing a single game with the club, he was placed on unconditional waivers in mid-June. He played 12 games with the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2007-08 NHL season, but really hasn’t proven himself to be a full-time NHLer just yet. However, Kontiola seems to always be a lethal threat when he puts on the blue and white threads from Finland. Kontiola has grabbed three medals in IIHF competitions in the past, including a bronze at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, but his greatest individual performance came at the 2013 World Championships. During that event, Kontiola was named the top forward after recording 16 points in 10 games for Finland, beating out the likes of Paul Stastny, Ilya Kovalchuk and Steven Stamkos when it was all said and done. Kontiola has 26 points in previous EHT competition, so, despite Kontiola’s failed attempts at an NHL career, expect to see some scoring out of Mr. 26.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

2. Ilya Sorokin, G (Russia): It wasn’t all that long ago that Sorokin was in the spotlight. The New York Islanders prospect recently represented the Russians at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Canada, leading his team to a silver medal after a heart breaker against the hometown team in the finals. Currently in his third KHL season, Sorokin has split time with Rafael Khakimov as the starting goalie of Metallurg Novokuznetsk this year. Sorokin has shown himself to have an ability to play against tough competition, showing that with 32 games of KHL experience before getting drafted by the Islanders, so this will be just another good test for the 19-year-old puckstopper. He has already seen action with the Russian national team at the EHT this year, suiting up at the Karjala Cup earlier this year, so he’s no stranger to the event. Sorokin will likely see some valuable time on a team that’s focusing almost solely on prospects this year, and with Igor Shestyorkin and Maxim Tretiak also named to the roster, it’s no secret that Russia has a lot of good options with their final line of defense.

Bildbyrån/aftonbladet.se
Bildbyrån/aftonbladet.se

1. Patrik Hersley, D (Sweden): Remember Patrik Hersley? Yeah, if you’re a North American, probably not. Hersley was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, but despite getting traded to the Philadelphia Flyers and later the Nashville Predators, the Swedish blue liner never actually saw time in the NHL. So does it surprise you that the very offensive defenseman is currently tied for first in EHT scoring this year with eight points? Kind of like Kontiola, Hersley seems to do great everywhere but the NHL, as proved by his award as the best defenseman in the SHL during the 2013–14 season. His 15 goals this season are good enough to lead the KHL in goals by a defenseman this year, so it also should come to no surprise that he’s received attention from the NHL this year, most notably the Edmonton Oilers.  Hersley has a chance to secure the tournament scoring lead this weekend, and if all goes well, he could impress scouts enough to earn him another chance in North America.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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It looked like a lost effort for Lulea in the first ever Champions Hockey League finals on Tuesday, but an incredible third period allowed the Swedish league team to come out on top and defeat Frolunda 4-2 for the tournament championship.

Frolunda only required 18 seconds to score the first goal of the match. Lulea’s Joel Lassinantti originally made a save on Montreal Canadiens prospect Artturi Lehkonen’s shot, but he kicked the puck right to Joel Lundqvist, allowing the brother of New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist an easy shot into the back of the net.

Lassinantti’s poor rebound control would come to bit him again near the end of the first, but it wasn’t the only reason that Frolunda finished with a 2-0 lead at the end of the period. Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Andreas Johnsson had the inital shot on net, firing one from the Skoda faceoff circle to the right of the Lulea netminder, who kicked it right off to Mathis Olimb for the goal. Olimb has been dynamite all season long, leading the tournament in points with 25 points before the finals commenced. He was left all alone in front of the net, so it may leave people to believe Lulea’s defensive breakdown was created due to the fact that Olimb, wearing a jersey that was red on the back instead of the usual white due to being the top scorer, meant that Lulea, wearing all red, may haven’t noticed him right away.

The visiting Indians had a plethora of great scoring chances during the second, but Lassinantti stood tall. Lehkonen had a few good scoring chances of his own, while Emil Sylvegard hit the post on a solid chance up close. Lassinantti may have struggled in the first period, but if it wasn’t for him making over 20 saves in the second, the game would have been over fairly quickly.

The third period saw the game completely change. Seven minutes into the final frame, Cam Abbott saucered the puck to Kristian Nakyva, who somehow got the puck over the glove of Linus Fernstrom and in for the 2-1 goal.

A minute later, things officially got crazy. Oscar Fantenberg was given a game misconduct after checking Lulea’s Karl Fabricius in the head, taking both of them out of the contest. On the ensuing power-play, Peter Cehlarik picked up a pass from Marcus Fageruud before firing the puck home from the right face-off circle.

Fernstrom had played well for the majority of the game, but some bad penalties by the team in front of him, as well as some regrettable mistakes in the crease allowed Lulea to take over the lead. The hometown team managed to get their first lead of the game with seven minutes to go when Jan Sandstrom’s shot was tipped by Johan Forsberg, who gave fans their first real chance to erupt. An additional empty netter by Dean Kukan with 1:34 to go in the contest sealed the deal for Lulea, making them the first European hockey champions after an incredible comeback in the third.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.