Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Czech-stop program in effect

Wheat Kings sniper Schenn notches 5 points in Canada win

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BUFFALO -- You think Canadians in general were giddy over Team Canada's 7-2 thumping of the Czech Republic?

Then imagine the Cheshire cat grins in Brandon in particular.

Because when the frost had settled on Team Canada's lopsided victory over the Czechs, it was Wheat Kings sniper Brayden Schenn who had racked up a five-point night for the Canucks with a goal and four assists.

Finally, a little holiday mistletoe for a guy now on his fourth team in three months: The NHL's Los Angeles Kings, the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, the Wheat Kings and now Team Canada's juniors.

"Over the first half, it's been a bit of a whirlwind," the 19-year-old from Saskatoon understated. "I'm just trying to gain confidence and get better day by day."

So are the Canucks, who are now 2-0 after an impressive start that included a tournament-opening 6-3 victory over Russia. Team Canada next plays Norway tonight (6:30 p.m. TSN).

But no doubt Schenn, one of only four returning players from last year's team in Saskatoon, needs to find his game as much as, well, the Canadians need him to. After all, Schenn's season began with so much promise. The Kings first-round pick (5th overall) cracked the Los Angeles lineup in October and managed two assists in eight games.

Activated

Then... bupkus. If Schenn had played 10 games with the Kings, the first year of his NHL contract would be activated. So the Kings shipped Luke's kid brother to the Monarchs (seven points in seven games), when after a short conditioning stint Schenn found himself back in the Wheat City in early December.

After two games with the Wheaties, however, Schenn has since been with Team Canada for the past three weeks. It's early, but Schenn leads the tournament in scoring, with seven points (two goals, five assists). On a team void of pure snipers, that output will be just as welcome in Buffalo as Brandon, where last season he racked up 99 points in 59 games.

"For me, I'm just trying to move my feet and use my speed," Schenn said. "Tonight was just one of those nights where I had a little puck luck."

So who helped Schenn get his head around all the uncertainty? Fittingly, it was Captain Canada himself, grizzled Kings veteran Ryan Smyth, who took the youngster aside in those early days of the season in Los Angeles.

"He (Smyth) was kind of in the same situation when he was 19," Schenn noted. "He wasn't playing and was sent down to the minors and actually got called up and stayed. It's a little different for me, but the experience he has under his belt... anything he says I'll listen."

Smyth texted Schenn after Team Canada beat the Russians with a message: "Good job. I was watching."

No doubt, Smyth was tuning in again Tuesday as the Canadians and Schenn had their way with the Czechs. If anything, Schenn has been a happy anomaly on a Canuck club lousy with balance. After six different players scored against the Russians, seven different players tallied against the Czechs. Only Schenn and captain Ryan Ellis scored in both games.

Meanwhile, the Canadians have been deadly with the man advantage, with seven power-play goals. The turning point, however, was a short-handed marker by Louis Leblanc -- following a huge save from netminder Olivier Roy -- that propelled Canada into a 3-1 lead midway through the second period.

But the Canadians did lose bruising forward Zach Kassian for an automatic one-game suspension after he received a match penalty for levelling Czech player Petr Senkerik, who lay motionless on the HSBC Arena ice for a few anxious minutes. Czech player Martin Frk was also ejected for spearing midway through the third period.

"Towards the end, the game got a little chippy," Leblanc said. "I guess they got a little frustrated. We were rolling four lines and finishing our hits like we want to do every game. They started lifting their sticks and giving a little extra push. That's unfortunate, but it's part of the game."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 29, 2010 C1

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