WJC Semifinal : Future Phantoms Between Pipes For Canada Versus Sweden?

Sweden substitute goaltender Felix Sandstrom absorbs a shot taken by Canada center Dylan Strome (# 9) during the Group A preliminary round robin contest of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki ... Strome, whom the Arizona Coyotes made the third overall player taken in the first round of the 2015 National Hockey League Draft, is the captain of Canadian squad which is desperate to win a goal medal in front of the home folk this year ... Sandstrom, the Philadelphia Flyers' prospect who got his feet wet in three games at the WJC last winter, is the undisputed number one netminder for a Swedish side which could very well be the team to beat at this year's tournament ... (photo courtesy Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva)

Sweden substitute goaltender Felix Sandstrom absorbs a shot taken by Canada center Dylan Strome (# 9) during the Group A preliminary round robin contest of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Helsinki … Strome, whom the Arizona Coyotes made the third overall player taken in the first round of the 2015 National Hockey League Draft, is the captain of Canadian squad which is desperate to win a goal medal in front of the home folk this year … Sandstrom, the Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect who got his feet wet in three games at the WJC last winter, is the undisputed number one netminder for a Swedish side which could very well be the team to beat at this year’s tournament … (photo courtesy Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva)

 

der Eishockeyzuschauer

ALLENTOWN, PA

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Lynch mobs out looking for Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and a few other National Hockey League head honchos, too, have not quite yet begun to form and become active but that situation could materialize in a flash if Canada, after looking so dominant (largely as a result of its power play) during its first three games at this 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship being held in Montreal and Toronto, finish without a medal in back to back WJC tournaments for what would be only the second time since the early 1980s.   The Canadians, who are without six skaters currently on the rosters of NHL clubs including 2016 WJC veteran Travis Konecny from the Flyers, were made to look rather ordinary as a result of the “complete hockey game” played by the United States in the final match of the preliminary round robin and did not exactly clobber a mediocre Czech Republic side at the quarterfinal stage, either.  The Czechs, who opened the scoring after an extremely lucky bounce provided potential future Lehigh Valley Phantoms winger David Kase his second goal at this WJC tournament, were heavily out-shot by the lopsided margin of 41-19 over the course the game but still only trailed 4-3 with roughly fifteen minutes remaining before ultimately losing to the host nation by a pair.  And now, in the semifinal round, proud Canada will have to contend with what appears to be a very talented if perhaps untested Sweden.
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The Swedes, who are highly motivated to win what would only be their third ever gold medal at the annual WJC first officially recognized in 1977, are certain to start Felix Sandstrom, the third round pick (# 70 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2015 NHL Draft, in between the pipes against the Canadians.  The 19-year-old from domestic elite club IF Brynas Gavle is one of eight Swedish players returning from last season’s WJC team that defeated Canada 5-2 in the round robin phase at Helsinki and all should benefit from that experience.  Sandstrom has started four of Sweden’s five games thus far (1.75 avg, .917 svpct) and was making a fairly good case for Best Goaltender honors until conceding three goals on just eighteen shots faced against low-scoring Slovakia at the quarterfinal stage; however, the youngster also carries the burden of having been beaten by the United States eight times in the Bronze Medal Match last winter so conventional wisdom says the kid who got shellacked by the Americans twelve months ago will be especially eager to make things right at this particular WJC tournament.
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In the meantime, after starting potential future Syracuse Crunch puck tamer Conor Ingram, the 19-year-old from the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers who was the third round choice (# 88 overall) of the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2016 NHL Draft, in back to back games against the United States and the Czech Republic, the Canadians are thinking about a change in net.  The Toronto Star newspaper has reported that “Ingram’s status as the starting goaltender is in question after coach Dominique Ducharme called his performance ‘okay’ and said the team would re-evaluate.”  Including the fluky tally notched by the player whom the Flyers nabbed in the fifth round (# 128 overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft, the unconvincing Ingram permitted three goals on just 19 shots against the Czechs and now shows an unimpressive .867 save percentage after three appearances at this 2017 WJC.
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Awaiting his chance to truly showcase his skills for host nation Canada at this tournament is Carter Hart, the 18-year-old from the WHL’s Everett Silvertips who started the opener versus Russia and also got the nod against lightweight Lativa but was then dropped for the quarterfinals.  Philadelphia’s second round pick (# 48 overall) at the 2016 NHL Draft seemed to be overawed on his formal WJC debut and did not exactly look overly confident in his second start, either, but should be well adjusted to the atmosphere by now.  To directly compare with his goaltending colleague, Hart has posted a save percentage of .881 in his two starts for the Canucks at this tournament.
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It is the opinion of this observer that the Canadian coach Ducharme will switch back to Hart for the semifinal versus Sweden.
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As far as injuries are concerned, it is unclear whether Philippe Myers (6’5″ 205 lbs), the undrafted 19-year-old defenseman from Rouyn Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League who has already under contract to the Philadelphia Flyers organization, will be able to return to Canada’s line-up for the WJC semifinal with Sweden.  He suffered a concussion in the preliminary round robin contest against the United States.  Myers has been called a “tower of power” at this tournament by one Canadian publication and his continued absence versus the Swedes would be a considerable loss for the host nation.  Myers is certain to be joining the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this later this spring once the season of his Canadian junior club has ended.


Categories: Phantoms Hockey

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