We’re headed towards the weekend, which means there’s a fair amount of hockey to be discussed. Here’s what you need to know for the next few days of action!
Both Calgary Flames players at the Olympics dressed for their national team’s first game. That’s the good news. Switzerland’s Reto Berra was the back-up as Switzerland eked out a 1-0 win over Latvia via a Simon Moser goal with 7.9 seconds left. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller posted the shutout. Czech Republic blueliner Ladislav Smid dressed, but did not play a single second in their 4-2 loss against Sweden. The Czechs looked downright bad, so I’m unsure as to why they didn’t trot Smid out for a different look. Then again, this is a team that repeatedly overlooked Jiri Hudler, so whatever.
The Swiss have announced that Berra will get the start against Sweden early tomorrow morning. It’s a tall order for Berra, and is a hugely important game for Group C. Whoever wins the group is guaranteed a spot in the quarters, while the second-place team will have to finish ahead of the other second-place teams to get the bye. This game, between the two teams that have already won a game, is massively important now. Berra has stolen games at the international level before, and he’s played very well for Calgary in the last 10 days or so, but the Swedes are incredibly dangerous – even without the services of Henrik Zetterberg. NHL.com’s Aaron Vickers passed along via Twitter that the Czech coach is gonna use Smid in the first pairing tomorrow, because why not, right? They are playing Latvia, who are the least-dangerous of Group C’s teams.
Anyone else really impressed with Norway’s effort in their loss to Canada? I was quite taken with their very structured forecheck, and really liked their goaltender Lars Haugen. I imagine he’ll get a few calls from NHL clubs looking for depth and/or a diamond-in-the-rough, but the 26-year-old has a contract with the KHL’s Dynamo Minsk that runs through next season.
Abbotsford’s Friday game in Raleigh against the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina’s farm team) has been postponed to Saturday, as nobody can get into the east coast today due to a snow storm. The Heat have played really well of late, and took it to the Checkers back in Abby last week, winning both games by a country mile. They’ll now play Saturday and Sunday in Raleigh, the Hurricanes’ home rink, before continuing on their road trip.
College Hockey News joins the chorus in heralding Johnny Gaudreau as the lord and master of collegiate hockey and the presumptive favourite for the Hobey Baker Award in April. The Boston College Eagles play against Vermont on Friday and Saturday, and will have just three regular-season games left after this weekend.
The Flames website has an interview (through an interpreter) with Flames 7th rounder Rushan Rafikov. Long story short, he’s probably coming to North America next year to play in the Canadian Hockey League. I imagine the Flames will have their fingers crossed that he gets nabbed by a WHL club in the Import Draft, which would have to happen before he can suit up over here. Rafikov has been a beast for the MHL’s Loko Yaroslavl, but it’s hard to tell what he is without seeing him regularly and/or seeing him on the NHL-sized ice.
For the curious, the general Canada or Flames-related game schedule over the weekend shakes down like this:
- Friday: Czechs (Smid) vs. Latvia [1am MT], Swiss (Berra) vs. Sweden [5:30am MT], Canada vs. Austria [10am MT]
- Saturday: Swiss (Berra?) vs. Czechs (Smid) [10am MT], Heat at Charlotte [3pm MT]
- Sunday: Canada vs. Finland [10am MT], Heat at Charlotte [11:30am MT]
Finally, Friday is Valentine’s Day and an oddly heavy schedule for hockey, both junior and collegiate. I get that Fridays are great nights for hockey, but crowds on V-Day are always sparse, as it’s hard to convince your partner to spend a romantic night at the rink. Believe me, I’ve tried.