Forward Marcus Foligno, centre, scored Canada's first goal in its win over Russia on Sunday. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
BUFFALO - Even though his mother Janis passed away from breast cancer in July 2009, determined Canadian junior Marcus Foligno still draws on advice and inspiration from both parents.
In daily phone calls with his father, Mike, currently an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks who played most of his 15 NHL seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, Marcus receives the kind of advice that he can employ on the ice to succeed. From his mother, he remembers her constant positive presence and how valiantly she fought her disease.
"It was incredible the way she fought every day," said Marcus, who scored Canada's first goal in its 6-3 win over Russia to open the world junior tournament on Sunday.
"I hope she is watching down on this. I know she is."
It should be noted that Janis was raised in a hockey family growing up in Sudbury, Ont. Her uncle was the legendary New York Rangers goalie Eddie Giacomin.
Up until this season, Mike Foligno coached his son the previous three seasons with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL. Marcus was asked what sort advice his mom provided after his games with the Wolves.
A smile came quickly to his face because the critical analysis from his father/coach continued back at home, long after tough outings. But his mother was always there with keep-your-head-up type counseling that was always timely.
All the Canadian juniors are excited to be in Buffalo and have a chance to win gold, but probably none more than Foligno and his linemate Zack Kassian. The two are Sabres draft picks. Foligno was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and still calls the city home. He was at centre ice when his father was inducted into the Sabres Hall of Fame in 2005.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," the younger Foligno said of being able to play the world junior tournament in his hometown. "It's back to the home roots for me. Buffalo is always going to be home for me. Playing in front of the Buffalo Sabres fans is pretty special for me and my family."
Unlike his brother Nick, who plays with the Ottawa Senators and spent a season with the United States under-18 program, Marcus wanted to play for Canada rather the U.S. because he was "American born, Canadian made."
Marcus and his centre Ryan Johansen are the only two players on the Canadian junior team that never represented their country internationally. His inexperience showed early in the opener when the excitement in HSBC Arena got the best of him.
The forward went down the sideboards in his own end to make a hit on a Russian player that was already covered by Canadian defenceman Dylen Olsen. Foligno not only took himself out of the play, but his teammate, too. Russia scored the game's opening goal as a result.
But just like his mom would have told him to battle back, Foligno scored a few shifts later after a brilliant kill from his teammate Casey Cizikas. After Foligno jammed in a loose puck, it looked like he would perform the Foligno Leap that his dad was noted for after he scored and the same jump Nick duplicated when he scored his first NHL goal.
Marcus, however, ran out of room and smashed into the glass and boards.
"I was so excited that I jumped and saw some Canadian fans banging on the glass," he said. "I'll make sure I don't hit glass the next time."
It's never easy to follow in a father or brother's footsteps. But Marcus, who also has two sisters, Cara and Lisa, sees skating in the same path as his father and brother as a plus.
Nick pushes his younger brother in off-season training sessions and there are constant counseling sessions on the phone with Nick and Mike. No texts, however, for his father.
"He not that good of a texter, so I try to call him," Marcus said.
"He's three hours behind and sometimes he's ready to go out for a game after I'm finished my game. It's tough with that three-hour delay, but I try to talk to him as much as I can."
Marcus likes to draw on the experiences of his brother and father. He was two-years-old when Mike played his 1,018 and final NHL game with the Florida Panthers during the 1993-94 season. But that hasn't prevented Marcus from watching those classic games involving his father.
"Just seeing him and the way he carried himself around the rink and the way he carried himself on the ice was something else," Marcus said.
"I know he's happy for me, but will be even happier if we win the gold medal."
Will Mike be able to see his son play live in the tournament? The Ducks have a busy schedule over the next week or so and are slated to play Nashville at home on Jan. 5, the day of the gold-medal final.
"He may surprise me with an appearance," Marcus said.
UP NEXT: Canada plays Czech Republic on Tuesday. The Czechs will be no pushover. They upended the United States 3-2 in a shootout exhibition game a week ago.
Several of the Czech players should be familiar to Canadian junior fans because they have chosen to develop in Canada. They include: Martin Frk, RW (Halifax Mooseheads); Andrej Nestrasil, C (P.E.I. Rocket); Jakub Culek, LW (Rimouski Oceanic); Ondrej Palat, LW (Drummondville Voltigeurs); Antonin Honejsek, LW (Moose Jaw Warriors); Petr Straka, RW (Rimouski Oceanic); Roman Horak, LW (Chilliwack Bruins), Adam Sedlak, D (Ottawa 67's) and Robin Soudek, RW (Chilliwack Bruins).
Olivier Roy will make his second start in goal for Canada. He made 24 saves in the tournament opener against Russia.
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