Storm duo set for Russian Challenge
By Jesse Michael for the Canadian Hockey League
When it was announced that Guelph would be hosting Game 3 of the SUBWAY® Super Series, both Matt Finn and Zack Mitchell were hoping to be named to the Team OHL roster.
A sense of relief came over them, as they were not only selected to play in front of their hometown fans, but they will be able to take on the challenge together.
“When I heard my name I was really excited to be a part of the selection and a part of the team,” Finn said. “And it will be fun to compete with Mitchy. It’s always nice to play in a series like this and to have a friend and a teammate to go through it with you is special.”
Mitchell backed up Finn’s comments.
“We’re really good friends away from the rink,” he said. “He’s [Finn] going to bring more of a comfort zone, and help be able to soak up the home crowd. I’m excited to have him there with me.”
The home crowd will be a huge benefit for Team OHL, as it will be sure to be a boisterous atmosphere at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph.
“There’s a definite buzz in the city, and it sold out pretty quick,” said Mitchell. “Playing anywhere in the SUBWAY® Super Series would have been awesome, but just in front of the Guelph fans and my friends it’s going to make it that much more special.”
Finn, who was a second round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is also looking at the selection to Team OHL as a stepping stone for a chance to play on an even bigger hockey stage.
“If I can make the World Junior camp in December that would be great,” he said. “It’s a full evaluation for Hockey Canada and the players in the system. I have to play well here and in the next month and a half. Everyone has to earn their spot and be up for the challenge.”
And a challenge it will be. The Russians were dominant in their opening game versus team QMJHL, winning 6-2 in Blainville-Boisbriand.
Finn knows that the Russians have sent their best, which means he and his teammates will need to be on their game as well.
“They’re a fast, strong hockey team with a ton of skill,” Finn explained. “Just watching the World Juniors the past few years you can get a feeling of what to expect and see the excitement that comes with the game.”
One of the players Team OHL will be tasked at slowing down is a familiar OHL foe, Nail Yakupov. Having scored ten goals in 14 games with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL, Mitchell believes it is important to shut him down, but he won’t be the focal point.
“Hockey’s a team game and one guy isn’t going to win a game,” he said. “We have to play him real hard and get the puck out of his hands. If you give him enough space he’ll make things happen. We have lots of skilled players and we’ll have a game plan for him.”
Another factor going into Game 3 is the quick turnaround for Team Russia. They play Game 2 versus Team QMJHL on Wednesday night in Val-d’Or, and then fly Thursday morning to Guelph for their matchup against Team OHL.
“I think they are going to have a travel challenge coming in from Val-d’Or,” Head Coach Steve Spott said. “Anyone who knows [Assistant Coach] Scott Walker knows the type of player he was and I’m sure the message is going to be ‘let’s get at these guys early tonight to start with a physical presence to our game.’”
Game 3 can be seen Thursday, November 8, on Sportsnet One, or on the NHL Network in the United States. Fans can also watch the game online through NeuLion, or listen live through Sportsnet Radio FAN 590 online with details at www.subwaysuperseries.ca.