Thu Nov 17 08:25am EST
Junior hockey coaches always worry about one of their players being injured in the Subway Super Series — but usually, if that happens, at least it occurs while he's on the ice.
Not so for Edmonton Oilers goaltending prospect Tyler Bunz, who's been one of the Western Hockey League's best through the first quarter of the season. The 19-year-old ended up in hospital on Thursday night after a puck flipped into the bench area struck him in the head during Team WHL's 5-2 win over Russia in Regina. That left the WHLers without a backup goalie for the rest of the game — fortunately for them, nothing happened to the starter, Colorado Avalanche prospect Calvin Pickard — and concern about Bunz's health.
Calvin Pickard had 23 saves in the game and will likely start Game Six as well. Back-up goaltender Tyler Bunz was taken to hospital during the second period after getting hit in the head with an errant puck while on the bench.
Head Coach Don Hay says Bunz wasn't cut but went to hospital to be observed in case of a concussion. (650 CKOM Regina)
Bunz is one of a handful of 19-year-olds vying with incumbent Mark Visentin for one of the two 'tender spots on Team Canada. (Pretty much every media story has the assumption Visentin's incumbency will get him some benefit of the doubt, although he's had a groin injury and is 29th among the OHL's 32 qualified goalies in save percentage.)
Bunz had a concussion late last season before returning to have a good playoffs for the Medicine Hat Tigers. He's started 20 of the Tigers' 22 games with a 2.58 goals-against average and .922 save percentage, so he had been pulling out all the stops to make his case for Team Canada prior to last night's freak occurrence.
It's a cruel irony:
Bunz feels an appearance in those games is critical. "The Subway Series against Russia is a big part in making that team and I know that," said Bunz, who, along with Pickard, will be on the roster for both games tonight in Regina and Thursday in Moose Jaw. "I really want to make the world juniors with it being in my backyard, so there's quite a bit of pressure. But it's all a part of the process." (Calgary Herald, Nov. 16)
One shouldn't jump to conclusions; one would hope Bunz was just kept for observation and will get a chance Thursday night in the Super Series finale vs. Team Russia. Pickard could probably use the break, since the Super Series came after he played 5-of-6 road games during a nine-day tour through the Eastern Conference.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).