(photo: Hockey Canada)
One day ahead of his first game representing Team Canada, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa was named captain of Team Canada. Today, Bieksa and the team experienced a surprising loss to France in Canada’s opening game of the 2014 IIHF World Championship. Team France edged the Canadian men’s team 3-2 in a shootout.
Team France drew first blood on a power play goal in the first period with a goal from French forward Stephane Da Costa. Team Canada forward Brayden Schenn answered little over two minutes later with a goal, capitalizing on a Team France penalty.
With the game tied at 1-1, the second period drew two penalties a piece but no goals. Team Canada out-shot their competitors 13 shots to 6 during the scoreless second. The third period saw defenseman Erik Gudbranson score an even-strength goal for Canada, answered two minutes later with a power play goal, again by Stephane Da Costa, during a slashing penalty against defenseman Jason Garrison.
The score remained tied at 2-2 after 60 minutes of regulation and the game went to a shootout. Team Canada failed to score on three shots, with Team France netting the third shot. The game winning shootout goal went to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, a Team France forward.
Despite the loss, the game was a milestone for Bieksa. At 32, the Grimsby ON native has eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks under his belt and has played 537 NHL games with the team. It is tough to believe that Bieksa, ranked as the sixth-highest scoring defenseman in the Vancouver Canucks’ franchise history, is representing Team Canada on the international stage for the first time. The two alternate captains named along Bieksa are Jason Chimera and Kyle Turris.
The decision to place the ‘C’ on Bieksa’s jersey was a popular one, with an outpouring of support prompting the Canucks defensemen to take to social media to show his appreciation.
Thanks all for kind words/messages. Honour to represent my country!!! #hockeycanada
— Kevin Bieksa (@kbieksa3) May 8, 2014
Bieksa has taken well to the role of melding the diverse group together, having the team make snow angels on the ice at practice yesterday.
“That’s who he is, that’s what he does,” said coach Dave Tippett.
“He keeps it fun, he likes to have a good time,” said Bieksa’s Vancouver Canucks teammate, Alex Burrows. “But at the same time when it’s time to work and do the right things, he’s the first one to lead the way.”
Bieksa touched on the diversity of the team and his approach ahead of the first game against France.
“It’s been pretty seamless so far,” Bieksa said after practice yesterday. “Everybody brings something to the table. The young guys are young and (add) a new perspective and energy and the older guys, there’s some guys that have played in this tournament a few times and they know what to expect and you lean on them for some advice. It’s a good mix.”
Canada is able to register 25 players for Worlds, with the current roster totalling 23 players. Ahead of the opening game against France, Team Canada added Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn to the roster, in place of the injured Marc Methot of the Ottawa Senators. Two open spots remain on the roster.
The puck drops on Team Canada’s next game on Saturday May 10 as the team takes on Slovakia at Chizhovka-Arena in Minsk, Belarus.