VANCOUVER — The head coach of Canada’s junior hockey team says his squad didn’t have a "driver’s mentality" when they began a battle with the Russians Monday night.
"Foot on the gas, looking through the windshield and you’re going after them, you’re going after a win. We didn’t play like that and that’s how winners play," Tim Hunter said after Canada dropped a 2-1 decision to Russia.
The coach said he knew Russia would be a challenging opponent and his group didn’t play fast enough to scratch out a victory in the tough-fought game.
"They’re a good team. They compete hard," he said. "We kind of gave them a little bit of free time because we didn’t play as good as we’re capable."
The loss was Canada’s first at the world junior hockey championship and marked the end of its round-robin play.
Russia (4-0-0-0) finished first in Group A while Canada (3-1-0-0) was second. Sweden topped Group B.
Losing Monday’s game was a lesson, Hunter said.
"Tonight’s the last rehearsal," he said. "Because next game, you don’t have a gimme where you can lose a game and still move on."
Florida Panthers prospect Grigori Denisenko put up Russia’s first goal and Pavel Shen notched the game winner.
"It was a good win and tough game, but it’s just preliminary so we should forget about this game and think about future games," Shen said through a translator after the win.
Playing in front of a hometown crowd in Vancouver added an extra challenge, Denisenko said.
"When all fans are against you, booing at you, you hear all that so it makes our team more close and we are becoming like a family and it helps us to produce our best," he said through a translator.
Cody Glass scored Canada’s lone goal.
"I think we just sat back and watched too much off the start," said Owen Tippett, who registered an assist on the play. "I think once we challenged the play more in the second period it was a different game."
Vancouver Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro stopped 29-of-31 shots for the Canadians and Russia got 30 saves from the un-drafted Pyotr Kochetkov.
"There were two good goaltenders on the ice. That’s part of the game. We’ve got to find a way to get pucks in the net," said Canada’s captain Maxime Comtois.
DiPietro went into Monday’s game having allowed a single goal at the juniors and boasting a .974 save percentage.
Against the Russians, the Ottawa 67’s goalie was forced to make some highlight reel-worthy stops, including on back-to-back breakaways in the third period.
Hunter praised the 19-year-old’s performance.
"He played outstanding," the coach said. "A couple of breakaways late in the game, then some other saves he had to make. Thirty-one shots. We don’t like to give up that many shots but we did. I thought he was outstanding."
But the goaltender said both he and his teammates need to be better.
"We hold ourselves at a higher standard and we strive for perfection each day," DiPietro said.
Hunter’s message after the game was motivating, DiPietro added.
"(This game is) something we can build off and adversity is good for our group, especially heading into games that really count," he said. "Sometimes a little adversity will do a lot and really bring out what we are made of."
All 10 teams in the tournament will have New Year’s Day off before games resume on Wednesday.
Russia will face Slovakia in the quarterfinals. Canada will play the loser of Monday’s late game between Finland and the U.S.
NOTES: Canadian defenceman Jared McIsaac missed out on Monday’s game after the International Ice Hockey Federation handed him a one-game suspension for a hit in Saturday’s 5-1 win over the Czech Republic. … The crowd of 17,556 hockey fans at Rogers Arena took exception to some calls in the match up, chanting "ref you suck" and booing the officials as they returned to the ice after intermission. … Russian captain Klim Kostin criticized Canada’s Maxime Comtois’ reaction to a hit in the first period, comparing him to Brazilian soccer star Neymar, who’s known for embellishing. Comtois’ response to the comments was simple: "Good for him," he said.