Russia made things interesting on Tuesday night in Swift Current, overcoming a 3-0 deficit with three third period goals to defeat Team WHL 4-3 in Game 2 of the CIBC Canada Russia Series.
Team OHL inherits split decisions in the opening two games of the series for a second straight year, hosting Game 3 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre in Owen Sound on Thursday.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Team OHL head coach Trevor Letowski who won a Mastercard Memorial Cup title, was promoted to head coach of the Windsor Spitfires and named an assistant coach of Canada’s National Junior Team all within a span of about three weeks back in early June.
The former OHL scorer and veteran of over 600 NHL games is eager to undertake the task that lies ahead of him this week.
“It’s a very humbling opportunity,” said Letowski of the appointment. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for the game and I respect the Ontario Hockey League and Hockey Canada. To have this opportunity means a lot to me.”
The Thunder Bay native who won gold with Canada at the 1997 World Juniors in Geneva, Switzerland will oversee a talent-laden group with a number of players set to compete in both Owen Sound and Sudbury.
Returning World Junior silver medalist Taylor Raddysh (Erie Otters) and current OHL scoring leader Jordan Kyrou (Sarnia Sting) will both suit up Thursday night in Owen Sound along with Attack scoring leader Nick Suzuki who is a first round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights.
With so much skill in one lineup, the task of distributing ice time can be somewhat complicated, but Letowski says everyone will get a chance to put their abilities on display as Hockey Canada looks on.
“It’s a real proud moment for these guys to represent the Ontario Hockey League, so everyone is going to get a chance to play. It’s a pretty important couple of games for them to show people what they can do,” he noted.
“Guys just need to strive to be engaged in every shift, play hard away from the puck and I think their respective skill levels will take care of the rest.”
Team OHL carries an all-time record of 23-4-1 into action following a 4-3 loss to the Russians in North Bay and a 5-2 victory in Hamilton last year.
Owen Sound hosts for the second time in three years after Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie Colts) recorded a 25-save shutout in a 3-0 Team OHL win on November 12th, 2015.
Sudbury will host the event for a record fourth time after past showings in 2007, 2010 and 2013. The most recent instalment saw Russia take a 3-2 shootout victory as goaltender Ivan Nalimov turned aside 50 shots.
Russia will get fresh reinforcements for the OHL segment of the series as Minnesota Wild prospect Dmitry Sokolov (Sudbury Wolves), Tampa Bay Lightning draftee Alexey Lipanov (Barrie Colts) and Edmonton Oilers pick Dmitri Samorukov (Guelph Storm) join their ranks.
Thursday’s Game 3 from Owen Sound can be seen on Sportsnet Ontario, East and Pacific when the puck drops at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT.