Not much excitement in Game 5 of the Canada-Russia Series

With a regulation win needed to clinch a win for Canada over Russia, Team QMJHL clamped down to get the job done.

The fifth game of the CIBC Canada-Russia series began about 20 hours after Game 4 ended. That the latter was played in Hamilton and the former 1,100 kilometres away in Chicoutimi did not bode well for Russia. I feel for this Russian team. In nine days, it’s now played five games and covered nearly 4,500 kilometres by air and ground from Prince George to Chicoutimi. (There’s another 325 to traverse to Baie Comeau for Thursday’s series finale.)

Russia has picked up hitchhikers along the way who’ve featured on the top lines and D pairs each game—two in this one: Gatineau forwards Vitalii Abramov and Yakov Trenin—but the core of this Team Russia can officially be called Road Warriors.

Weariness was most on display for Russia Tuesday night as it was shut out 4-0 by Team QMJHL, which moved its all-time record against the barnstormers to 15-9-3.

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For the most part, the Russian core has played well. A little short on talent, a little jumpy-looking at times, but there are players on this team who’ve raised scouts’ eyebrows after being passed over the past couple Junes. For me, the list begins with Alexander Volkov, 19. He’s a 6-foot-1 forward who plays in SKA St. Petersburg’s system. He’s shifty, quick and dangerous—and there’s no reason to believe he and a number of others from this series won’t feature on Russia’s World Junior Championship squad, which has medalled in each of the past six under-20 best-on-best tourneys.

Canadian world junior coach Dominique Ducharme was quoted during the broadcast as wanting to “put the kids in the best possible position to perform and show what they can do.” He did what he could, and the ones he’d have expected to perform did just that.

Julien Gauthier (21st by MTL in 2016), Pierre-Luc Dubois (3rd by CLB) and Thomas Chabot (18th by OTT) loomed large on the score sheet. Gauthier, the Val-d’Or Foreurs sniper, scored twice and looked just plain bigger than most others on the ice. He worked well with Dubois in the man-among-boys category. Those two with linemate Alex Dostie got going in the second and never really looked back—they were all over the puck.

But overall, the Q roster looked discombobulated—much like any all-star team would, but so far more so than the WHL or OHL. And while there’s no doubt there were a handful of Canadian world junior candidates on display—on the blue line specifically—Team QMJHL looked as we expected, like it won’t have many representatives on Canada’s world junior roster beginning Boxing Day.

The Huskie Five
Rouyn-Noranda ranked fifth in the CHL rankings last week, thanks in large part to its five participants in Tuesday’s game. Their numbers have been dominant in the regular season.

Player Pos Age GP G P1 eTOI/GP eP1/60 GF%
Alexandre Fortin LW 19.553 10 1 7 15.97 2.63 66.67
Philippe Myers D 19.638 10 1 2 15.13 0.79 64.29
Jeremy Lauzon D 19.384 7 1 2 14.00 1.22 87.50
Gabriel Fontaine C 19.378 14 4 7 13.83 2.17 73.68
Jean-Christophe Beaudin C 19.471 18 5 6 13.33 1.50 68.18
5v5 stats courtesy              

But none other than Fortin, (two assists) managed a point, or looked noticeable Tuesday. The Huskie Five was a far cry from the four Steelheads we saw in Games 3 and 4, all of whom played key roles or at least made names for themselves.

Russian CHLers
Abramov and Trenin were also more or less invisible. The two combined for zeros across the board in goals and points. Trenin managed a shot, Abramov two PIM.

The QMJHL blue line
When asked about his team’s defence corps as an offensive catalyst, Ducharme said: “We want to play fast and at the same time be in control.”

Neither was really on display. The QMJHL’s depth was supposed to begin with its defencemen, but there were few quick breakouts to count and little play from the back to get anyone excited. Samuel Girard was plus-2, Nicholas Meloche—in his fourth CHL season—might have brought more than anyone expected, while Chabot scored the third marker. After that, can’t recall much to highlight.

The forgotten zero
Quebec Remparts goaltender Callum Booth (93rd by CAR in 2015) turned away 16 shots for the shutout. He’s been considered a top prospect for a couple years now, but has developed slowly to date. He wasn’t tested often, but came up strong when needed Tuesday.

Not to downplay Thursday’s finale in Baie Comeau, but this series feels like it’s winding down pretty quickly. Nothing to be done about that—such is the nature of these events. But what we’ve seen is a Russian squad with intriguing players battling nightly against CHLers playing hard while looking to make an imprint on the brass at Hockey Canada.

Fair to say that in this game, the brass didn’t have a lot to call home about.

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