Sunaya Sapurji

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Sunaya Sapurji is the junior hockey columnist for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Sunaya previously worked at the Toronto Star for 10 years as a copy editor and writer covering the Ontario Hockey League.

  • World junior darlings Denmark prepared to give it their all in quarterfinal game against Team Canada

    Prior to coming to North America for the world junior championship, Denmark's George Sorensen had played in a total of two games.

    With his hometown team in the top Danish league, the Herning Blue Fox, the 19-year-old is the backup goaltender. Since he doesn't get a lot of work, he has to make the most of the few chances he gets. There was the World Jr. A Challenge in Kindersley, Sask., in the week leading up to the world junior championship, where Sorensen helped Denmark claim silver.

    Here in Toronto at the world's premiere junior tournament, Sorensen has received his biggest opportunity to date and he has quickly become a fan favourite by backstopping the unlikely Danes to a quarterfinal berth.

    "It has been more than excellent," said head coach Olaf Eller of Sorensen's play. "He has been exactly the guy who has kept us in games. It has been terrific what he's been doing for us."

    [More on World Junior Championship: Scores & schedule | Stats | Teams]

    The Danes qualified for the

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  • McDavid vs. Eichel plays second fiddle to another Canada-U.S. world junior classic on New Year’s Eve

    MONTREAL - The buildup for Canada’s game against the U.S. had started long before the two teams had taken the ice.

    It began to ramp up back in the summer when both teams opened training camps in Brossard, Que., and Lake Placid, N.Y. There the focus was on Canada’s Connor McDavid, the top-ranked player for the 2015 NHL draft, and America’s Jack Eichel, the player trying to usurp him next June at the NHL entry draft.

    At stake in the game was top spot in Group A of the World Junior Hockey Championship and the chance to face the underdogs from Denmark. A 5-3 victory for Canada on New Year’s Eve means the young, upstart Danes will have their hands full trying to contain an offence that came at the U.S. in wave after wave - occasionally crashing upon the crease of goalie Thatcher Demko.

    The loss puts the Americans up against Russia in the other quarter-final, giving the U.S. a much more dangerous foe.

    After the first period on Wednesday, it was clear that the narrative of the

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  • Leon Draisaitl #29 of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)Leon Draisaitl #29 of the Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    MONTREAL — The Edmonton Oilers have certainly made a fine mess of things.

    According to a report from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector the NHL team is expected to return talented German centre Leon Draisaitl back to junior in the Western Hockey League.

    Draisaitl, 19, has played in 39 NHL games and has two goals and five assists. The native of Cologne, Germany would have been eligible to play for Germany at the 2015 world junior championship, but the Oilers decided to keep him. After the decision was made, Draisaitl was a healthy scratch.

    "When we first contacted them the situation in Edmonton was a little different," said German coach Pat Cortina, adding their talks with Edmonton were cordial. "I understood their way of thinking then. I guess it's too bad it wasn't like this when we first asked.

    "In hindsight it's unfortunate. He definitely would have helped us, it would have been nice to have him ... but we can't change that. We don't have him here now and we won't have him here tomorrow." 

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  • Team Canada's goaltender Eric Comrie THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan RemiorzTeam Canada's goaltender Eric Comrie THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

    BROSSARD, Que. — Goaltender Eric Comrie will get the call for Canada in net against the United States on Wednesday afternoon.

    The game between the two undefeated teams will decide who will earn the top seed in Group A.

    Comrie’s last start was a 17 save shutout in a 4-0 win over Germany earlier in the round-robin. Zach Fucale, the starter in last year’s tournament in Malmo, Sweden, made 27 saves in a 4-1 victory over Finland on Monday night.

    “We like both of our goalies and I thought Zach played well last night,” said Groulx on Tuesday morning after practice. “But I also think Eric deserves a chance to play tomorrow.

    “We really feel good about both goalies, so we don’t look further ahead. It’s tomorrow (first) and then we’ll address (the rest) after.”

    The Americans, who have not named a starter, will likely counter with Thatcher Demko who came up big in their 2-1 shootout victory over Finland in the opening game of the tournament.

    Comrie, who plays for the WHL’s Tri-City Americans,

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  • World Junior 2015: Finnish coach miffed over Groulx comments

     

    MONTREAL — It wouldn't be a world junior championship without a little international controversy.

    The latest issue stems from the post-game press conference after Canada's 4-1 victory over Finland on Monday night. Prior to a question and answer period with reporters, it is customary for each coach to give a brief opening statement with general thoughts on their team's play.

    Finnish head coach Hannu Jortikka went first and spoke English - which was passable given that it's not his first language. He was followed by Canadian head  coach Benoit Groulx, who chose to make his opening remarks in French. There was no English translation provided.

    This apparently did not sit well with Jortikka, since the International Ice Hockey Federation requires either English to be spoken or translators to be present during press conferences if the coach can not speak English.

    From the IIHF guidelines: "Translation to English will be provided as mandatory and also translation to other languages will be

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  • World Junior 2015: Canada to face familiar foe in Finland's Saros

    Finland goaltender Juuse Saros. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)Finland goaltender Juuse Saros. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

    BROSSARD, Que. — The Finns are making some bold moves in preparation to face Team Canada on Monday night.

    In the morning, head coach Hannu Jortikka announced that goaltender Juuse Saros would start for Finland, thus far winless (0-0-1-1) at the tournament. The 19-year-old had a shaky outing in the team’s 2-1 upset loss to Slovakia, giving up two goals on the first seven shots. On the other hand, Ville Husso, his partner in the Finnish goaltending tandem, turned in a solid 36 save performance against the U.S., in a shootout loss.

    In the 2014 world junior championship in Malmo, Sweden, Saros was voted a tournament all-star. He helped beat Canada in the semifinal with a 23 save effort en route to a 5-1 victory. The Finns eventually won gold and the Canadians came home without a medal for the second year in a row.

    “We have two good goalies and of course Saros made one mistake (against Slovakia) everybody knows that,” said Jortikka after practice. “But last year, you can see that he almost

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  • World Junior 2015: Jake Virtanen's family allegiances proudly Canadian -- with a soft spot for Finland

    MONTREAL — There are no divided loyalties for Jake Virtanen. As a dual citizen of both Finland and Canada, his choice has always been to wear the maple leaf and he’s done so proudly here at the world junior championship.

    But the same might not be totally true for everyone in the Virtanen household.

    Jarmo Virtanen, Jake’s grandfather, is a proud Finn, born and bred.

    “My grandpa gets a little nervous when we play Finland,” said Virtanen. “He was born there … and my dad and my grandma, so playing against Finland I think my grandpa has a little mixed feelings. I think he has a soft spot for them. He lives here though, so I think he’s for Canada all the way.”

    Jake’s father, Ranier, settled down in B.C. as a teenager after spending time in both countries as a child. The Virtanens hail from Jakobstad/Pietarsaari, a bilingual town of 20,000 in western Finland where the majority of the population speaks Swedish.

    Long before Jake ended up playing for Canada, the world junior championship was a

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  • 'Underdogs' Germany find the positive after defeat to Team Canada at the WJHC

    MONTREAL — After the game German goaltender Kevin Reich was sporting a huge grin. He had just let in four goals against Canada to open Germany’s world junior tournament with a loss.

    To be sure, he wasn’t smiling about the result. Instead, it was the experience of playing in front of 12, 733 boisterous fans at the Bell Centre that had the 19-year-old beaming.

    "It was unbelievable," said the native of Iserlorn, Germany. "It's an amazing feeling. It's fun to play for that crowd.

    "I'm not really happy - I could be better - but I think we played well and it was a good start."

    After an 8-0 blowout of Slovakia in Canada's first game, there wasn't much expected out of the Germans. A nation with 18,000 registered junior players, the Germans proved, however, to be a formidable opponent.

    "Lots of people said we would get killed," said German forward Dominik Kahun, of playing against the high-powered Canadians. "We played hard and I think 4-0 is not bad for us, but we want to get better."

    Reich

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  • Dream come true: Anthony Duclair is savouring hometown World Junior Hockey Championship

    MONTREAL — Before the game even started, when his name was called, the crowd gave him rousing welcome.

    Anthony Duclair had returned home.

    The NHLer was back in his hometown, in the Bell Centre, the Mecca of hockey in Quebec, playing with Team Canada. The game was a blowout; a 8-0 victory over Slovakia in Canada’s opening game of the tournament being held simultaneously in Montreal and Toronto.

    The 19-year-old scored Canada’s second goal and assisted on another.

    [Buzzing the Net: Max Domi demonstrates 'Canadian hockey' with inspired effort]

    Having not played before for Canada at the world juniors, the idea of returning to play in the marquee Christmas-time event in his hometown was an exciting prospect and something he said he had always dreamed of doing as a kid.

    "It’s amazing," said Duclair. "Growing up here in Montreal, it’s incredible and every time I watched the Habs it was a special feeling. For myself, playing in my hometown it’s a special feeling and to score in my hometown is

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  • World Juniors 2015: Finland's Young Lions undone by Eichel, power play

    Jack Eichel #9 of the U.S. checks Mika Ilvonen #4 of Team Finland into the boards during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship game at the Bell Centre. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)Jack Eichel #9 of the U.S. checks Mika Ilvonen #4 of Team Finland into the boards during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship game at the Bell Centre. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    MONTREAL — Earlier this week, Finland's head coach Hannu Jortikka was quoted in the Finnish daily Sanomat as saying - in his opinion - Team USA was the best team at the 2015 world juniors, even better than the host Canadians.

    After the American's beat the Finns 2-1 in a shootout on Friday, his position had changed when asked by a Canadian journalist about his quote.

    "The coaches are so tired they (say) a lot of crazy things," said Jortikka. "That's one part of this game outside of the rink.

    "One thing for Canada is that the pressure at home is not so easy for young kids game after game."

    If not for the play of Finnish starter Ville Husso, the score would have been settled long before heading to the shooutout. The netminder, who plays pro hockey for IFK Helskini, stopped 36 shots in the loss.

    American Jack Eichel, 18, one of the top players ranked for the 2015 NHL draft, was the star of the game. He set up the tying goal with a pass to himself - off the boards - and then a beautiful

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