UFA – Has Canada’s coach Steve Spott found a brilliant motivating tool or is the “game cape” merely silly? If the former, good for him. If the latter, see the former. Because something silly can be a great way to create team chemistry and keep the players loose. Either way, it’s an attention-getter and pleasant addition to the atmosphere at the 2013 U20.
Spott has decided to award a black cape with the motivational message “One Reason” on the back after every game to the player whose play was most important. Sometimes that will mean a big day on offence; other times it will be because of a great save, big hit, or the creation of some other turning point. “We need a different hero every night,” he explained.
The word cape is a strange one. Say it often enough and it loses meaning. Of course, Batman is the “caped crusader”, and Cape Fear is a movie (twice filmed). There are many place names with Cape in it such as Cape Breton, Cape Cod, Cape Town, Cape Dorset.
The word derives from old English (capa) and Latin (cappa) and used to mean hooded cloak. More recently it is designed as a sleeveless cloak, but the word cloak is also something perhaps counter-intuitive to Spott’s strategy. A cloak, after all, covers or conceals, yet he wants his cloak-wearer to parade through the mixed zone for all to see.
Be that as it may, it might be fun to award a black cape-cloak to a player on every team from the ten games played so far to see who’s doing what at the two venues of the U20. Here’s where things stand.
Canada: It would hardly be appropriate to award Canada’s cape to players other than those chosen by Spott himself. After Canada’s easy 9-3 win over Germany, the recipient was captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who tallied a goal and four assists. Yesterday’s 6-3 win over Slovakia saw defenceman Scott Harrington win it for his shot-blocking prowess.
Czech Republic: The Czechs started with a 4-1 loss to Sweden, but the cape goes to goalie Matej Machovsky who stopped 37 of 41 shots. In the team’s next game, they won 3-1 and played a perfect defensive game, but Tomas Hyka gets the cape for scoring a great opening goal to give the team that huge spark on the road to victory.
Finland: Suomi opened with a 5-1 win over Latvia, and the cape of that game goes to defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen. He was on the ice for four of the five goals, added a goal and an assist, and had four shots. Finland’s second game was a 3-1 loss to the Czechs, but the cape goes to forward Ville Järveläinen. At 5’5” (165cm) he is the shortest player in the tournament and an inspiration to all height-challenged players. And if he is, in fact, 5’5” (165cm) it is because that measurement was executed while Järveläinen was wearing his skates.
Germany: Canada pounded the Germans by a 9-3 count in the opener for both teams, so there was little to admire in the German game. As a result, the cape goes to Alexander Ackermann because he was impossibly a +1 in the game for Germany, the only plus player on the team. The Germans followed with another bad loss, this time 8-0 to the Americans. Sorry, but no cape awarded after that debacle.
Latvia: The Latvians opened the tournament by dropping a 5-1 decision to Finland. Arturs Kuzmenkovs was named player of the game, and now he also gets the cape as well. The team won only 21 faceoffs all game, and he won 11 of them. The team followed with another bad loss, this 7-2 to Switzerland. The second cape goes to captain and defenceman Edgars Siksna. He had an assist on both goals, including one early in the game to stake them team to a surprising 1-0 lead.
Russia: The host nation started its hoped-for run to gold by eking out a 3-2 overtime win against Slovakia. Mikhail Grigorenko should get the cape because of his great game start to finish, but we give it to Albert Yarullin because it was his blast in OT that saved Russia’s bacon. A loss to start the event would not have been good. For game two, a 2-1 squeaker over the Americans, the cape could go to goalie Andrei Makarov for his 41-save performance, but since he was named best player of the game we’ll give the cape to Valeri Nichushkin. It was his sensational solo rush end-to-end that teed the puck up for Vladimir Tkachyov to fire home for the winner early in the third period.
Slovakia: The Slovaks started with a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to the Russians in overtime. The cape goes to Richard Mraz, who tied the game in the final minute to send the game to OT and give the team a much-needed point in the standings. Two days later, they lost to Canada 6-3 despite leading 3-1 midway through the game. Marko Dano gets the cape by default because he scored twice and assisted on the other Slovak goal.
Sweden: The Swedes started with a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic, and the cape of the game goes to defenceman Mikael Vikstrand who was on for three of the four goals (two power play, for which he drew assists, and one short-handed) while playing a great game inside his own blue line. In their next game, a 3-2 shootout win over Slovakia, the cape goes de facto to goalie Niklas Lundström. After sitting on the bench for 65 minutes watching teammate Joel Lassinantti play a fine game, he turned to coach Roger Rönnberg and asked to be put in for the extra shots. Lundström stopped all three and won the game. That’s the stuff capes are made of.
Switzerland: The Swiss started with a 7-2 win over Latvia, and Tanner Richard gets the cape uncontested. He had three assists in the game – one even strength, one short-handed, one on the power play – and in each case these were gorgeous passes. The team followed with a heart-breaking 3-2 loss to the Swedes in a shootout, and goalie Melvin Nyffeler gets the cape for a strong performance through 65 minutes of tense hockey. He also made two great saves in the shootout.
United States: The Americans started with an 8-0 crushing of Germany, thanks in large measure to cape winner Sean Kuraly, who opened the scoring after just 19 seconds. That quick goal put the Americans in control right off the bat. Kuraly later added an assist, was 10-for-14 in faceoffs, and a +3 on the night. A day later, the team lost a tight 2-1 decision to Russia. Not surprisingly, the cape goes to goalie John Gibson, who was very solid for a second straight game.