WHL downs Team Russia in Kamloops

Canada sweeps Russia during the western leg of Super Series

Kamloops product Ryan Gropp cuts across the blueline during the Super Series game on Nov. 10 in Kamloops. (Cameron Doherty/The Omega)

Kamloops product Ryan Gropp cuts across the blueline during the Super Series game on Nov. 10 in Kamloops. (Cameron Doherty/The Omega)

Henderson in ’72, Lemieux in ’87, Eberle in ’09, and now Jayce Hawryluk in ’15. The latest chapter in one of hockey’s most storied rivalries, Canada vs. Russia, was written in Kamloops on Tuesday, Nov. 10, and it was once again Canada coming out on top by a score of 4–2.

The CHL Canada Russia series pits the top junior players in Russia against all-star teams of Canadians representing the three major junior hockey leagues in Canada: the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The team from Russia plays two games against each of the league’s all-star teams and after getting pasted by the WHL 7–3 Monday night in Kelowna, they came into Kamloops looking determined to put forth a better effort.

That changed as the game went on however, with the teams trading goals.

The WHL starting lineup had a distinct local flavour to it: Ryan Gropp and Joe Hicketts, both born and raised in Kamloops, started the game, as well as Colin Shirley and Deven Sideroff, who both play for the Kamloops Blazers.

Neither team was able to take control of the game in the first period, both teams seemingly content to sit back and wait for the opponent to make a mistake rather than attack and potentially open themselves up.

That changed in a back and forth second period that saw both teams score two goals, including one scored on a nice pass from Shirley that set up his Blazer teammate Sideroff to make sure that the game remained tied heading into the third period.

It looked like the game was headed into overtime and possibly a shootout, when with just three minutes left to play, Hawryluk gathered a loose puck in the neutral zone, flew past the Russian defenders and unleashed a picture perfect shot that beat Russian goalie Maxim Tretiak.

These games are also used as an opportunity for the coaching staff of the Canadian under 20 World Junior Hockey championship team to scout potential players. One name that is almost guaranteed to be on the roster is Kamloops local Joe Hicketts. He was on the team that captured gold last year and was given the honour of wearing the captain’s “C” during Tuesday’s game.