Canadians have a history of traveling well during the IIHF World Under-20 Hockey Championship, and they figured to have a vocal presence with the event in Western New York.
Still, it would have been easy for anyone who didn't know the world junior event was taking place in Buffalo to mistake sold-out HSBC Arena for Air Canada Centre in Toronto. In Canada's 6-3 win over Russia Sunday, the crowd was loud, very loud.
Team Canada players heard plenty of cheers for fine shifts that didn't produce goals. They heard it when a Canadian delivered a thunderous check. The refs heard it when they made a call against the red, white and black.
The Russians heard boos as they took the ice, jeers when they scored first, and then the loudest of cheers once it became apparent that Canada would once again prevail.
Canada opened its redemption mission by beating a storied, bitter rival on Sunday. Two man-advantage goals early in the third period allowed the Canadians to pull away.
Ryan Johansen and Brayden Schenn scored on the power play in a span of 2:28 early in the third period to break a 3-3 tie. The cheers were loud after those goals and the place was rocking when the Canadians killed off a Russian power play later in the period in which they didn't get anywhere near Canada goalie Olivier Roy -- who finished with 24 saves. And then they got to cap it after the final horn by singing "O' Canada."
"A big part of coaching is to get your team to play to its highest level and to generate emotion," Canada coach Dave Cameron said. "It certainly helps when you have that emotion in the building and they're all on your side.
Sabres prospects Marcus Foligno and Zack Kassian received an ovation in their future home for having a hand in the triumph. Foligno had a first-period goal to tie things, along with a few big hits. Kassian set up Schenn's power-play goal with a nice feed across the goal line.
"It was awesome," said Foligno, the Western New York-born forward who plays for Sudbury of the OHL. "Tickets are 61 percent [Canadians] to all of our games. Tonight, I think it was 98, 99 percent. It was a thrill."|
Especially since they opened against Russia, who until recently had given Canadians the most trouble in international play over the years. The two sides didn't play each other last year -- only the third time since 2000 that's happened.
They made up for lost time with a physical, entertaining showdown Canada won thanks to its ability to produce on the power play (3 of 5) when it mattered most.
Johansen fired in the rebound of a Jaden Schwartz shot from the slot that was too hot for goalie Igor Bobkov (36 saves) to handle to break the knot at 3:46. Schenn roofed a shot past Bobkov after receiving a nice feed from Kassian minutes later.
"I said before when we need it most, it comes through for us," said captain Ryan Ellis of Canada's power play, which went 1-for-10 in last Tuesday's 4-1 exhibition win over Sweden. "I think it's gotten better and better each game and that's exactly what's been going on."
Canada, which is 15-17-2 all-time against Russia and the former Soviet Union, has a five-game winning streak against the Russians after falling to them in the gold-medal games in 2002 and 2003.
The Canadians had to work through some opening jitters as they had only four returnees from last year's silver-medal outfit. They also had to get by a resilient Russian crew which received goals from Maxim Kitsyn, Nikita Dvurechenski and Danil Sobchenko.
Foligno gave the Canadian faithful a chance to really be heard with 2:05 left in the period when he chipped in a rebound near the crease. He helped to create the opportunity by getting a piece of Russian defenseman Nikita Pivtsakin during a clearing attempt that didn't leave the zone.
"It was the spark we needed," said Ellis, who scored a gift goal that gave Canada a brief 2-1 lead in the second period that ricocheted off the boards and into the net off the back of Bobkov's skate. "He's been a key for us. When he gets a goal, it's usually at a key time."
Erik Gudbranson and Curtis Hamilton also scored -- the latter with 27 seconds left -- for Canada, which will face the Czech Republic at 4 p.m. Tuesday at HSBC Arena.
For now, it feels good getting the better of an old nemesis.
"Being put up against Russia in the first game, it was huge for us to come out with the victory tonight," Foligno said. "They're a pretty good team."