Dub Weekly: Blades’ goalie Makarov might get chance to play in front of home crowd
As a promise, Saskatoon Blades’ trainer Steve Hildebrand has learned the entire Russian anthem and can now sing it loudly and proudly from start to finish.
It’s a little piece of home for goaltender Andrei Makarov who gets serenaded in a dressing room performance of the song after posting a shutout.
But over Christmas, the 19-year-old native of Kazan is hoping to hear the national anthem on more than a few several occasions if he gets the nod for the host Russian junior team at the 2013 IIHF world junior tournament which is staged in Ufa, Russia, just over 450 kilometres from Makarov’s base.
“I’m just invited to camp right now,” Makarov said, following a stop in Calgary over the weekend where he posted a 4-0 shutout and was treated to one of Hildebrand’s specials. “After that, we’ll see what happens. It depends on who the coach puts in the net, doesn’t matter. Me and (Andrei) Vasilevski, I think we both play good together.
“I would be excited to play in pretty much home town. It’s Russia, right? Home country. Our fans. I think that would be exciting.”
Canadians, of course, would remember Makarov as the baby-faced teenager who sealed their fate at the Scotiabank Saddledome during the 2012 world junior semifinal. Russian head coach Valeri Bragin decided to go with Makarov over Andrei Vasilevski in the gold medal final. He made the decision worth it, making some incredible saves and finishing the game with 57 saves but the Russians wound up losing 1-0 in overtime to Sweden.
“It was the gold medal game,” Makarov said, sighing. “We lost. There was like 50 shots but we lost. Some guys tell me, ‘You remember your game?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, kind of.’ I try to forget it because it was last year. A new year. A new season.
“Crazy experience for me. I didn’t think the coach was going to put me in the gold medal game but I think I played well.”
Something like that, yes.
He was only 18 at the time and, up until that point, had only played limited minutes for the national team. Nevertheless, he proved his capabilities and potential, something well known to Saskatoon head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken.
“He can be a world class goalie when he wants to be,” he said. “I think he’s proven that on the big stage, as far as the world juniors go. When he’s on top of his game, he’s hard to beat.
“It was a tough finish for him last year.”
Molleken and the Blades believed Makarov was concussed in the final game. In his first clash back in the WHL, he absorbed a hit and never regained his form. More disappointment came when he was passed over at the 2012 NHL draft.
However, interest picked up shortly before the start of the 2012-13 season and after the summer series against the Canadians and the Buffalo Sabres signed him.
“So everything worked out extremely well for him,” Molleken said. “His focus is on trying to be the best he can be for this team every night. We’re going to lose him for a month during the world juniors but we’ve played the heck out of him.
“So, he’s capable of handling the workload which is a positive.”
Makarov — and the entire Blades roster — battled inconsistency at the start of the season but since the Subway Super Series, it seems like he’s been dialed in.
“It’s been tough but we’re back on track right now,” said Makarov, who has a 12-13-0-1 record with a 3.03 goals against average and 0.907 save percentage. “We’re playing hard every game. If you’re winning, you feel happy. Fun. It makes it easier on everyone.
“I don’t have a lot of pressure but everyone probably thinks, ‘Lose. Lose.’ I don’t really care about that. Just play our game.”
SWEDEN CALLS RASK
Calgary Hitmen centreman Victor Rask cracked Sweden’s preliminary roster headed to Ufa, Russia, for the 2013 IIHF world junior championships.
The 19-year-old who is in his second year in the Western Hockey League captured a gold medal with the Swedish national team at the Scotiabank Saddledome during the 2012 world juniors in Calgary and Edmonton.
Rask, who went 42nd overall in 2011 to the Carolina Hurricanes, started the 2012-13 season with the Charlotte Checkers. In 10 games, he scored a goal and four assists and was a plus-seven. Since his return to the WHL, the offensively gifted six-foot-one and 200-pounder has put up a goal and three assists in six games.
Rask is the lone WHL-er on Sweden’s roster and is one of four Canadian Hockey League players --- should he crack the squad, he’ll also be the lone Hitmen representative at the world juniors.
Also Monday, 11 WHL players were named to Canada’s team selection roster.
FREE MIKE JOHNSTON?
The suspension of Portland Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston has struck a chord with team fans and they’ve taken their feelings to social media, creating a “Free Mike Johnston” page and Twitter account over the weekend.
“Let’s show the WHL that we stand behind our Portland Winterhawks Coach,” the page claims.
Last week, the WHL laid down hefty suspensions on the club for a series of player benefit violations. Johnston was suspended for the remainder of the 2012-13 season and playoffs while the WHL also fined the Winterhawks $200,000, suspended the club from participating in the first five rounds of the 2013 WHL bantam draft and took away their first round selections in the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 WHL bantam drafts.
ICE CHIPS . . .
Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Jaimen Yakubowski is the WHL player of the week after collecting eight points (five goals, three assists) in four games ... Moose Jaw Warriors goalie Justin Paulic is the WHL’s nominee for the CHL goalie of the week ... Look for the WHL’s player and goalie of the month for November which should be released Tuesday.
THEY SAID IT
“I thought it was first fight and everyone throws the bears? #misunderstood #somanybears #21thousandofem.”
- Jaynen Rissling (via Twitter @riznasty09) during Sunday’s Petro-Canada Teddy Bear Toss. The first Hitmen goal signals fans to toss their donated creatures onto the ice
“Just a hunch, but I don’t think the Portland Winterhawks captain can be reached at his old cellphone number. #deathforjaywalking.”
- Edmonton Sun sports Rob Tychkowski (via Twitter @SUN_TYCHOWSKI) referring to the WHL’s disciplinary actions on the Portland Winterhawks which had revealed they paid for cellphones for four of their captains over three years
“WHL and OHL clearly setting some examples here to send a message to member teams. That is, play it by the book.”
- TSN analyst Bob McKenzie (via Twitter @TSNBobMcKenzie) on Portland’s sanctions
“It’s all so unreal. Before the game, all the guys are thinking, ‘Who will score the goal?’ Everyone wants to score this goal because it’s real nice to score. And I was thinking, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll score,’ but I didn’t believe it. But when I scored it was unbelievable.”
- Calgary Hitmen forward Pavlo Padakin who scored the goal that sent 21,534 stuffed toys flying in Sunday’s 4-1 win over the Kootenay Ice, the 18th annual Teddy Bear Toss game
“I think it was a distraction at the start ... the players, they weren’t used to it. They couldn’t be themselves. But I think in the long run, it’ll pay huge dividends for them being under the microscope like this. They’re going to be able to handle different situations in a different way."
- Saskatoon Blades head coach and general manager Lorne Molleken on the constant media coverage and attention surrounding On the Edge, Sportsnet’s real-life documentary on the team’s road to hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup
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