As Team USA prepared for its semifinal match against Russia, coach Ron Wilson took a few minutes to offer his opinion on Canada's unexpected exit from the world junior hockey championship.
“That’s the nature of this tournament,” said Wilson, ex-coach of the Maple Leafs. “It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your history is as a nation.”
From Wilson’s perspective, Canada took too many penalties, not only all tournament long but in particular its 6-5 quarter-final loss to Finland. The Finns scored three times on the powerplay, including the winner.
“That’s the one thing you can’t do,” said Wilson. “You can’t play Finland in Finland — a decent team — and you’re spending all the time in the penalty box.
“I talked to (Canadian coach) Dave Lowry about that: ‘Dave, you’re better than Finalnd, but Finland has the best power play in the tournament. Why would you put yourself in a position to have to kill any penalties?’ If a guy slaps you back, you just have to turn and skate away.”
Canada was the second most penalized team in the tournament, taking 25 minor penalties over five games, and had the worst penalty killing record.
The Americans, by contrast, are the least-penalized team in the tourament, with 14 minors taken, and have failed to kill only one penalty.
“You have to be disciplined,” said Wilson. “That’s what everybody said coming in. That’s what everybody warns you about. We’ve set out not to take penalties and so far we’ve been pretty good at it.
“You can’t talk back. You can’t involved after whistles. When you’re risking all for the sake of a penalty to feel a little bit better about yourself, oftentimes you’re going to end up feeling bad about yourself when you’re picking your skates up after the game and counting the penalties.”
As for what’s in store, Wilson said he doesn’t know very much about the Russian team.
“We got to play our game,” said Wilson. “The mood of the team is very good. We’ve just got to show up and play. So far it’s worked.”