Scott Wedgewood has been named Canada's starting goaltender for Tuesday night's semi-final against Russia at the world junior hockey championship.
Wedgewood, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers, started two games for Canada in the preliminary round.
The New Jersey Devils draft pick stopped 26 shots in a 5-0 shutout win over the Czech Republic and made 30 saves in a 3-2 win over the United States.
Mark Visentin of the Niagara IceDogs also appeared in two games for Canada, stopping 24 shots in both an 8-1 win over Finland and 10-2 victory over Denmark.
If the Canadian team is downplaying the revenge factor heading into its world junior hockey championship semifinal, its Russian opponent isn't.
Tuesday's semi-final between Canada and Russia is a rematch of the gold-medal game last year in Buffalo, N.Y.
Canada led that game 3-0 heading into the third period before the Russians scored five times to take the title.
“Everybody is remembering Canada lost in the final,” Russia coach Valeri Bragin said. “They'll do their best to take revenge, but we'll also try our best to win a second year in a row.”
Sweden and Finland meet in the other semi-final. The winners will play for gold while the losers for bronze Thursday.
For the Canadian players, even those who took part in last year's final, there's enough on the line without bringing up the past.
“It's not last year,” forward Brett Connolly said. “It's a new year for them too. They have new players too.
“We're focused on getting to the gold-medal game and getting a win. There's no revenge here.”
A combined five people on both teams were involved in last year's final. Bragin is behind the country's bench again, while captain Evgeni Kuznetsov is the lone returning player from the championship side.
When asked if he thought Canada would be motivated to eliminate his team from gold-medal contention because of what happened last year, the Washington Capitals draft pick said via an interpreter, “I don't care.”
“We are not afraid of Canada,” he added.
Mark Visentin, who was in Canada's net in last year's final, Connolly and winger Quinton Howden played in that game. Current captain Jaden Schwartz was with the Canadian team, but didn't play in the final because of a fractured ankle.
“Obviously it was hard, one of the most difficult things we've ever been through, but we got over it,” Howden said. “It's part of life.
“That's the way the game goes. We've moved on.”
Although Visentin has previous experience in the tournament, coach Don Hay decided to go with Scott Wedgewood of the Plymouth Whalers in goal.
“It's Scott's opportunity to take it and run with it,” Hay said.
Connolly allows that his experience and those of the other second-year players can help settle their teammates down should the game against Russia get tense.
“When stuff starts going south, which it might, you never know . . . we've got to stick together as a team,” Connolly said. “Last year obviously in the final game that happened, but again, there's a few returning guys who have been through that so we can help the other guys out if that happens.”
Canada and Sweden earned byes to the semi-finals by finishing first in their respective pools and didn't have to play quarter-finals Monday.
Russia will play their second game in as many days Tuesday. The defending champions needed overtime to put the Czechs away 2-1 in their quarter-final.
“I wish the game had gone longer,” Hay said.
Russia's protection of its own zone is its weakness, but goaltender Andrei Vasilevski has shown he can bail the defence out. He made 38 saves versus the Czechs.
“Obviously their goalie is playing pretty well so we have to get traffic on him and get pucks to the net,” Schwartz said.
Canada has dominated the first period, outscoring its opposition 9-0 in four games and drawing energy from the home crowd.
“Every time Canada plays, it will be hard and physical and a really good start they have,” said London Knights defenceman Alexander Khokhlachev. “Everybody understands right now it will be a really hard game because they lost last year in the final.”
Russia was pushed more this tournament than Canada, which went 4-0 and outscored its opposition 26-5 in the preliminary round. The hosts have yet to play from behind in the tournament.
In addition to their overtime win, Russia lost in overtime to the Swedes in a game that decided first place in Pool B. Bragin didn't believe the Canadians' tightest game, a 3-2 win over the U.S., pushed them that much.
“It was like a friendly game against the United States. Not much hitting. No emotion,” he said. “I don't think it was a really good test for Canada.”
Russia has six NHL draft picks in the lineup, as well as highly-rated prospects for the 2012 entry draft in forwards Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko. Yakupov plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting.
The Scotiabank Saddledome was firmly on the side of the Czechs in the quarter-final versus Russia. The crowd will be even harder on the Russians when they take to the ice Tuesday night against the home team.
“Every fan says Czech Republic, Czech Republic. I don't know why,” Yakupov said in broken English. “I think because we're better and we're stronger and we're the best team in the world juniors, so we don't care.”
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