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Florida Panthers Take On The World

An update from the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Belarus

Tuesday, 05.13.2014 / 2:45 PM ET / World Championship
By "Hockey Pat" McGrath  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Florida Panthers Take On The World
Jonathan Huberdeau battles for the position against Slovakia in the IIHF World Championship in Minsk, Belarus (Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images)

The 2014 IIHF World Championships are underway in Minsk, Belarus, and through three games, the five Florida Panthers playing in the tournament have their countries near the top of the standings.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson’s Team Canada sit atop Group A with seven points (two wins and a shootout loss). The United States, which features Panthers Jimmy Hayes, Drew Shore and Vincent Trocheck, sits in the second spot in Group B, with two wins, a regulation loss and six points through their first three contests. Both squads have Tuesday and Wednesday off before picking up the action again on Thursday.

On Friday, in their tournament opener, Canada stumbled out of the gate, falling 3-2 to France in the shootout. Gudbranson scored midway through the third period to put Canada up 2-1, but France bounced back just a few minutes later, scoring a power-play goal that would keep the game tied through regulation and overtime. The goal for Gudbranson was his first of the tournament as his shot from the slot ricocheted off the post and the back of former NHL goaltender Cristobal Huet before trickling over the goal line.

“I just tried to hit the net and I got a lucky bounce with it going off his rear end there and it went in the net,” Gudbranson said on the goal.

The Canadians bounced back from the opening loss to win their next two games, defeating Slovakia 4-1 on Saturday and the Czech Republic 4-3 on Monday. Gudbranson attributed the bounce-back to the team coming together and committing to play the tough and smart style of hockey that Canada is known for.

“Tighten it up, play physical, get to the front of the net for the forwards and just make simple plays as defensemen and see if we can jump in.” Gudbranson said. “Really just cleaning up our game, minimizing turnovers and playing a more direct Canadian style of hockey is what we wanted to do.”

Gudbranson’s defensive partner through the early games has been his Minsk roommate, Ryan Ellis of the Nashville Predators. Ellis, who is 23, and the 22-year old Gudbranson, have been an effective young tandem on the blue line for the Canadians. The duo is +4 through the tournament’s first three games.


Huberdeau is also finding success with his Canadian linemates in Belarus. The Panthers second-year forward has been playing alongside Sean Monahan of the Calgary Flames and Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals. Huberdeau credited his line’s strong play to their desire to keep things simple and play smart defensively.

“I think our line is going pretty well right now. I think we’re just trying to keep it simple and that’s what we’re doing,” Huberdeau said. “Be good defensively and things will come offensively.”

That offense was on display in Monday’s 4-3 victory when Joel Ward scored a huge first period goal off assists from Monahan and Huberdeau. The goal was Ward’s third of the tournament and came with the Canadians down 1-0 and struggling to find their way against a Czech team that came out flying in the early going.

Huberdeau and Monahan, at 20 and 19-years of age, respectively, are Canada’s youngest forwards and they have benefited from playing alongside the veteran Ward (33). According to Huberdeau, the strategy is really quite simple.

“Ward is really hot right now so we’re trying to pass him the puck,” Huberdeau said.

Over in Group B, the United States jumped all over Belarus in their opener on Friday, topping the host country 6-1, much to the disappointment of the rowdy home fans. Hayes tallied an assist and was named the game’s Best Player while his brother Kevin tallied an assist of his own. For the Dorchester, Massachusetts native, playing for his country alongside his younger brother, a 2010 first round selection of the Blackhawks, is an experience unlike any other.

“There are not too many opportunities to play for the U.S. national team with your brother, so it’s a dream come true,” Jimmy Hayes said. It’s a great opportunity for both of us to play with one another and alongside each other.”

Following their win over Belarus on Friday, the U.S. topped Switzerland 3-2 on Saturday before falling 6-1 on Monday to the high-octane Russians who are led by tournament scoring leader Alexander Ovechkin, who has six points in three games (3-3-6).

At first and second place in their respective groups, both Canada and the U.S. are in good position for the medal round, as the top four teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals. Both teams will be back on the ice on Thursday following a two day break, with the U.S. facing Latvia and Canada taking on Denmark.

Stay tuned to FloridaPanthers.com for continuing updates and interviews throughout the tournament.




1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 248 187 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 214 184 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 259 206 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 237 199 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 245 224 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 231 211 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 232 208 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 217 204 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 209 201 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 198 213 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 227 248 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 212 223 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 176 209 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 183 219 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 206 257 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 153 269 54


J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01

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