After two periods of the Gold Medal game last January, Canada had 3-0 stranglehold on Team Russia in Buffalo, looking to avenge their first Gold-less tournament in six years. All was going to plan for Team Canada, that is until they surrendered five goals to a Russian team that was all but invisible for the two previous periods.
Mark Visentin, Canada's hero-turned-goat in goal, allowed all five in one of the greatest collapses in the history of Canadian hockey. Yet in two weeks, Team Canada will take the ice in Calgary and the gold medal hopes will once again rest on Visentin's play between the pipes.
The Canadians released their roster for the 2012 World Junior Championships on Wednesday morning and Mark Visentin, last season’s backup-turned-starter, tops the bill. He’ll be backed up by Scott Wedgewood (Plymouth, OHL), a 2010 third-round pick of the NJ Devils.
Wedgewood was regarded by most onlookers as the best goaltender in camp, sporting a goals against average of 3.08 and a save percentage of .904. Visentin’s numbers in Niagara aren’t much more overwhelming, with a GAA of 2.88 (ninth in the OHL) and a save percentage of .899 (good for 19th).
Wedgewood won a job outright in camp, while it appeared Visentin’s was safe from the start. But were these really the two best available options?
Malcolm Subban led Canada’s U-18 team to a fourth place finish last season, and was an earlier cut at the camp. Currently, he leads the OHL in GGA, save percentage, is fourth in shutouts, and sixth in wins. But by traditional standards, he is rather young to start in net for Canada and is draft eligible in 2012. Fine. But even more intriguing names were cut this morning.
Tyler Bunz (EDM, fifth round 2010) was given his release, despite only being ranked in the top five of all major categories in the WHL for Medicine Hat, as was Louis Dominique (PHX, fifth round 2010) for Quebec in the QMJHL. Dominique leads the Q in save percentage and is second in GAA.
While Wedgewood had the strongest camp, only Dominique has any international experience of the three, and Dominique and Bunz are having dominant junior seasons. If experience is a factor, though, how can we ignore Visentin’s?
Visentin comes off one of the most traumatic losses in Canada’s history, a start he earned after a solid 4-1 win over the US and a 10-1 win over winless Norway, paired with Roy’s failure to defeat Sweden. It has to be recognized that a goalie with limited (and disastrous) international experience, starting behind a defensive corp that will be feeling the losses of the likes of Eric Grudbranson and Ryan Ellis may require Wedgewood to be a major factor. Let’s just say that as of right now, this is one area the US has a firmer grasp on in third year starter Jack Campbell, and it will be something to keep an eye on when the two teams meet in the final game of Group B play.
As always, Canada is teeming with high-end talent, even if they may be more youthful than in years past. This largely untested and talented squad will have a lot to prove, but there won't be anyone feeling more pressure than Visentin, especially if he falters early.