Photo: Marissa Baecker
Three members of the Kelowna Rockets will skate in the fifth of six games in the Subway Super Series between teams from the CHL and Team Russia tonight in Regina, SK.
Colton Sissons, Brett Bulmer and Zach Franko will skate as members of Team WHL in the first of two games Team WHL will play against Team Russia.
Sissons, the Rockets captain this year, is second in Rockets scoring with 10 goals and six assists in 20 games this year.
Franko has eight points in his first 20 games while Bulmer has been on fire since returning from the Minnesota Wild. In just five games Bulmer has eight points with the Rockets.
Team WHL will play Russia tonight in Regina, SK, and on Thursday in Moose Jaw, SK.
The series, which is in its ninth year, sees a Russian select team travel across Canada while facing select teams from the three CHL member Leagues – the QMJHL, the OHL and the WHL. The 2011 SUBWAY® Super Series is currently tied at 2-2 through the first four games, with the Russians opening with two wins over the QMJHL last week then dropping a pair of decisions to Team OHL.
Now, it’s up to Team WHL to propel the CHL to the series win for an eighth time in the nine-year history of the event. Having lost both meetings to a strong Russian side last year, Team WHL needs no extra motivation to claim victories this year.
“You don’t like to lose, especially the way we lost last year,” said Regina Pats forward Jordan Weal, 19, who suited up for Team WHL in a gut-wrenching 7-6 shootout loss in game 5 of last year’s series in Kamloops, B.C. in which the WHL gassed a 6-3 lead in the third period en route to the defeat.
“It leaves a bit of a sour taste in your mouth, so hopefully this year we can turn it around and get two wins,” he said.
This year’s edition of the Russian squad has proven to be equally as talented and dangerous as last year’s edition of the team that won the Super Series for the first time in the event’s history.
With speedy and talented offensive players such as Nikita Gusev and Nikita Kucherov,to go with a mobile and big defense corps, the Russians boast tremendous puck-moving and passing skills and an explosive offense that can hit like a lightning strike.
“I saw a couple of the games,” said Moose Jaw Warriors forward Quinton Howden, who also suited up for Team WHL last year, leading to a spot in Canada’s national junior team for the 2011 World Junior Championship.
“They sent over pretty much their main (national junior) team last year, and it looks like they’ve done the same this year,” said the Florida Panthers prospect. “It’ll be good for us to face a talented team like this and hopefully get back at them for having beaten us last year.”
As veterans of Team WHL, both Howden and Weal know the SUBWAY® Super Series is a potential audition for Canada’s World Junior team. Howden ended up making Team Canada, which went on to win Silver at last year’s World Junior tournament, while Weal will be looking to turn heads at Hockey Canada this year in hopes of making the 2012 edition of Team Canada.
“It’s in there, but I try not to focus on it too much because it just puts more pressure on you,” said Weal. “If I go out there and worry about my own game, and prepare the way I do for every game, I’ll give myself the best chance for success.”
As someone who has played in the SUBWAY® Super Series and who knows what it takes to make Canada’s national junior team, Howden is quick to offer advice for guys who haven’t been through the Team WHL experience before.
“First off, you have to just enjoy it,” said Howden. “It’s a real honor to be selected to play in these games and represent the WHL.
“We have to go in there and play the role we are given. Some guys may have to adapt to a role they aren’t used to with their Club team, so it’s about taking the opportunity that’s given to you and making the best of it so you can potentially get noticed,” he said.
Though both Howden and Weal have been part of the SUBWAY® Super Series before, this year will be a little more special because both players get to suit up for Team WHL in front of their home crowds in Moose Jaw and Regina, respectively.
The chance to take part in such a prestigious event in front of their home fans is something both players are excited about.
“It’s going to be very exciting,” said Weal, who will join fellow Pats player Colton Jobke for Game 5 of the series in Regina on Wednesday. “Regina has great fans, and they are always loud, so hopefully we can fill the place up and get it rockin’.”
Howden joins defensemen Dylan McIlrath and Joel Edmunson, and forward Cody Beach among Warriors players who will skate for Team WHL in Moose Jaw on Thursday in the series finale. He’s looking forward to helping the team to a win on the ice at the Warriors’ new facility, Mosaic Place.
“I’ve played in this before, but never in front of a hometown crowd, so it’s going to be something special for me,” said Howden. “It’s a phenomenal facility we have here, so I think the players from both teams will be impressed.”
Each of the final two games of the 2011 SUBWAY® Super Series can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet.