First off, we at The Sports Corner want to wish all our followers a Happy New Year and all the best in 2008. We appreciate all the interest and comments from all of you and will continue to bring all of you our best work in the year ahead.
Now down to business.
Team Canada will begin its quest for a fourth straight gold medal at the 2008 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships on Wednesday as they take on Finland in the quarter-final.
After a so-so opening round to the tournament that made Canada not look as dominant as everyone had expected, case in point is the 4-3 upset at the hands of Sweden who scored four times in the third period en route to the victory, Craig Hartsburg and company have to get back down to business.
Finland finished third in Group B with a record of one win, one overtime win and two losses and scored 16 goals for, while giving up 15 goals.
The rap on Finland coming into this tournament was that, although this is not a particularly strong team, their goaltending may be the catalyst that carries this squad, but Finland’s Goals Against Average as a team was hovering around the 3.75 mark, compared to Canada’s which stands at 1.25.
According to TSN, Steve Mason of the OHL’s London Knights will get the start in goal for Team Canada tomorrow against the Fins. In two games in this tournament, Mason has only allowed one goal which came on a five-on-three powerplay for Denmark in the third period of yesterday’s 4-1 victory over the Danes.
If there is one thing about this tournament, or playoff and elimination games in every league and sport, it is that the outcome of a game isn’t decided from the press box or the stats that the press and play-by-play announcers use to fill up print space and air time. The game is decided by who on the ice, field, court or course wants to win the most and which team executes their game plan better than the other team.
There is now question that Team Canada wants nothing more than to go 3-0 in the medal round and claim a fourth gold medal in a row, as sniper John Tavares guaranteed they would. To Canadians, this tournament something we cherish because it gives young men an opportunity to put on the Canadian jersey and represent Canada for the game we all love.
The message that Hartsburg and his coaching staff need to pass along to the players is to find another level of that passion; to individually dig deep to find that missing gear and play as if nothing else in this world is as important to them as the gold medal. Because you can be damn sure that, starting with Finland tomorrow morning, every other nation would love nothing more than to take what we, as a nation, consider to be rightfully ours.