Spokane Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur spent a good part of Sunday preparing for Team WHL’s games this week against Team Russia during the Subway Super Series.
“I had to put the final touches on it,” said Nachbaur, who will coach Team WHL. “They are good. Nineteen of their guys are from their summer team. They are loaded. What we saw in the summer is they have size, they skate well and they are skilled, lines one through four. Their power play and their penalty kill has been good, as well. They have some high-end talent.”
This marks the 10th year of the series with the Russians. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League split their games with the Russians to open the series. Team WHL will play the Russians tonight at Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Thursday in Victoria, British Columbia. The Canadian Hockey League has won eight of the nine series played to date.
Tri-City Americans goalie Eric Comrie will be on the Team WHL roster for both games. He is one of three 17-year-old players on the team, including forwards Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice.
“It’s just part of the process and getting experience,” Nachbaur said of the youngsters. “This is where you can get a look for the World Juniors.”
Comrie is the sixth Americans player named to a Team WHL roster for the event. He joins former Tri-City forward Brendan Shinnimin, goalies Chet Pickard and Carey Price, and defensemen Logan Stephenson and Shawn Belle.
“It is going to be an unreal experience,” Comrie said. “I get to watch Laurent Brossoit, one of the top goalies in the Western Hockey League, on how he prepares for a game. I get to meet some new guys, and I have some friends there. And I get to watch Russian goaltender Andrei Vasilevski, who is a first-round NHL draft pick. He has been fantastic his whole career.”
Comrie will share time in net with Edmonton’s Brossoit. Nachbaur said he is confident in both, and that both will be challenged.
“They both are on the national radar, and it is up to them to showcase themselves,” Nachbaur said. “They won’t be seeing muffins like they do in the Western Hockey League. The Russians have made the (OHL) and the (QMJHL) goalies look silly at times. It will be a good test for our goalies. These guys are coming from winning programs, and there’s a lot to be said for that.”
Comrie knows Brossoit has more experience, and he’s willing to do what is best for the team.
“Of course I always want to get in net and compete and play,” Comrie said. “But if I don’t get in, there’s the wealth of knowledge I can bring back to the team and myself. I’m just excited to go there and learn. I’ll be a rookie again. It will be fun.”
He also looks forward to playing for Nachbaur.
“I lived with Adam (Hughesman) last year, and he told me all about him, how good of a coach he is,” Comrie said. “It’s exciting to play for him. He is a great coach. Maybe I can learn a few things.”
What hasn’t been fun for Nachbaur is trying to match his team to the Russians. The talent might be there, but the size isn’t.
“If you look at our World Junior team from the summer, the strength of our team is our defense,” Nachbaur said. “Most have played on the U-18 team and have that experience. Where we don’t match up is with their size up front. If we don’t get it done up front, we have some defensemen that can get it done. We have to find ways to score.
“Everything the Russians do has strength. They protect the puck well, and that will give us problems. They are very disciplined and make it hard in their end. They block pucks, finish checks, and they play to win. They play the right way.”
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; firstname.lastname@example.org