Canada's starting goaltender up in the air
Quinn expects to use both netminders in world junior championship's early round-robin games
By Allen Panzeri
December 26, 2008
Team Canada player John Tavares practices for the 2009 IIHF World U20 Championship at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa on Christmas Day.Photograph by: John MajorCANADA vs. CZECH REPUBLIC
- - -
On the eve of the 2009 world junior hockey championship, Canada's head coach still hasn't chosen a starting goalie.
Pat Quinn has yet to decide if Chet Pickard or Dustin Tokarski will be between the pipes for Canada today against the Czech Republic at Scotiabank Place.
Tokarski is from Watson Lake, Sask., and plays for the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs, while Pickard is from Winnipeg and the WHL's Tri-City Americans.
After a Christmas afternoon practice, Quinn repeated his intention to give both goaltenders some work up until Wednesday's game against the United States.
Though both players attended Canada's summer development camp in Ottawa and Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence goaltending camp in June, neither has competed for Canada internationally.
"They are somewhat different, but they're both like the new goalies: they cover a lot of ground, they have that ability to get down and cover the bottom off, and they're very athletic," Quinn said. "One kid (Tokarski) has won a Memorial Cup already, so there's some experience there in some ways with pressure situations.
"But both of these young men have conducted themselves very well. We'll feel comfortable with whichever one is in for (Friday's game)."
Tokarski has the more impressive resume, and there was at least the suggestion in Quinn's words that he may have been leaning his way.
The 19-year-old goalie backstopped the Chiefs to last year's Memorial Cup and was the most valuable player. In 2006, as a member of the Prince Albert Mintos, he won the Telus Cup, Canada's national midget AAA championship.
This year, Tokarski leads all Western Hockey League goalies in save percentage (.938). He led them last year (.922), too.
"It's exciting and, hopefully, I'll get the start," he said Thursday. "But if Chet does, I'll be cheering him on and going for the victory on the bench. Whoever gets the start, I'm sure the other guy will help him out.
"As a hockey player, you're excited and anxious for the opportunity."
In Tri-City, where he wears No. 37 -- the same number as Tampa Bay netminder Olaf Kolzig, one of the team's owners -- Pickard was most famously Carey Price's backup before getting the No. 1 job.
But he showed he was also an excellent goalie last season when he won 46 games for the Americans, becoming only the sixth WHL goalie to win more than 45 games. For that, he was named the WHL and Canadian Hockey League goalie of the year.
Like Tokarski, Pickard admitted to being anxious to hear the decision.
"As a goalie, you always want to know if you're playing or not," he said. "It's never a bummer if you don't start.
"We're here and have been given the chance to represent the country, and that's the main thing. We're going to be supportive of each other no matter who's in net. We're here to win as a team, and whatever it takes, we're ready to do.
"I think everyone's excited to get out there."
The 19,153-seat Scotiabank Place is expected to be full for the tournament opener, with a loud, patriotic crowd behind Team Canada.
Pickard said he was OK with it.
"I think everyone will have a few nerves, but it's just another game," he said.
"I think we're prepared. Dustin and I have played in some pretty high-pressure situations, even though they haven't been on the international stage.
"I think once we get out (on the ice), we'll be good. I don't think we're worried about it."
Not even if all of Canada will be on the edge of its collective seat.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal