Team Canada defenceman Dougie Hamilton, right, reacts with teammate Ryan Murphy, left, after scoring a goal while playing against Russia during first period IIHF World Junior Championships hockey action in Ufa, Russia on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012.
Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette, Postmedia News
Ufa, Russia – Tyler Wotherspoon’s right cheek was stitched up, inside and out, and puffed up well past the size of golf ball. It was, the defenceman later explained, nothing that was going to stop him from returning to help Canada finish off Russia with a 4-1 victory.
But while the medical staff were sewing seven stitches into Wotherspoon’s cheek and checking him for signs of a concussion, his teammates had done the bulk of the damage to Russia in a loud, packed Ufa Arena on New Year’s Eve.
With a pair of power play goals on the checking from behind major that ended Valeri Nichuskin’s night, Canada never relinquished their lead and secured a pass to the semifinal of the world junior hockey championships. They will await the winner of the Czech Republic-U.S. quarterfinal, which will be played on Wednesday.
The Swiss, who lost three overtime games while eking out one win in Pool A, now have to take on Russia in the other quarterfinal.
“It comes with the job (but) I knew I was coming back,” said Wotherspoon, who had been cut by a skate on an earlier play but didn’t start leaking until he’d been rammed into the face-first into the boards. He returned for the second period.
“This was a game we all had marked on our schedule. I thought the boys responded. The guys stepped up big when they needed to but that power play was a turning point in the game.”
Canadians won’t play again now until Thursday, which is their reward for defeating Germany, Slovakia and the U.S. before they rolled out to play Russia.
The power play, which was unable to capitalize against the U.S. one night earlier, did the necessary damage. Goaltender Malcolm Subban put in another good night’s work, turning away 20 saves while his cohort Andrei Makarov was peppered with 43, and Canadian captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was at his shiftiest best, setting up three of the goals.
He was certainly more of a difference maker than Russian captain Nail Yakupov, his future Edmonton Oilers teammate.
“We just have to stay focussed,” said defenceman Dougie Hamilton. “Last year we had the extra day and we ended up going into Calgary and switching things up and losing so we just have to be focused and be prepared for whoever we’ll face. It will be nice to have that extra day though.
“Coming in you don’t know what to expect (with the U.S. and Russia), you kind of size yourself up against them and you could end up losing both and be in trouble. We really focused and came out hard today. We’re just really happy we’re in this position.”
Booner Jenner, who returned from a three-game suspension, was “a one-man forecheck,” which is why Canadian head coach Steve Spott handed the winger the hero’s game after the contest, and the defence was able to keep the likes of Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko in check.
Spott also reshuffled his lines before the game, moving Jonathon Drouin up to play with Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele. The 17-year-old, who arrived at Canada’s selection camp without any guarantees he’d make the team, responded with a second period goal.
“He’s unbelievable to play with,” said Ryan Strome, who had played with Drouin earlier in the tournament but settled in with Jonathan Huberdeau and Ty Rattie against Russia. “He’s got a hockey IQ that’s pretty much above anyone I’ve ever played with. I think he’s on a level with guys like Nugent-Hopkins when it comes to his hockey sense.”
In the first, Hamilton sent a slapper past Andrei Makarov on the power play then Scheifele shook off Maxim Shalunov and backhanded in another to give the Canadians a lead that stood until Scheifele turned the puck over in his own end. It ended up on the stick of Nikita Kucherov, who rang an even strength marker in off the crossbar.
In the second, Canada’s captain deftly put the puck on the stick of Drouin, who wrapped around the back of the net and tucked the puck between Makarov’s right skate and the post.
“(That power play) was a critical moment,” said Spott. “It was an opportunity to silence a crowd that was so loud. It was so loud to start the game. It was incredibly loud in this building and the energy was phenomenal.
“We’ll enjoy tomorrow then move on from there.”
© Copyright (c) Postmedia Network Inc.