The Canadian team for the 2012 Spengler Cup has been fortified with some star talent because of the 103-day-old NHL lockout this year.
But there are some unheralded players on Canada's roster among out-of-work NHLers like Jason Spezza, Patrice Bergeron, John Tavares, Tyler Seguin, Jonathan Bernier, Carlo Colaiacovo, Devan Dubnyk, Sam Gagner, Matt Duchene, Cam Barker and Ryan Smyth.
Lesser-known players like defencemen Geoff Kinrade, Maxim Noreau and Travis Roche as well as forward Jacob Micflikier are having the time of their hockey lives in Canada's run at a 12th Spengler Cup championship. Canada followed up a 2-1 overtime loss
to Adler Mannheim in its tournament opener on Wednesday with an impressive 5-0 victory
over the host HC Davos on Thursday.
Kinrade, Noreau, Roche and Micflikier took time after the win against Davos to relay their stories.
Geoff Kinrade (Nelson, B.C.)
There was a shortage of Canadian defencemen playing in Switzerland this winter and that opened the door for the likes of Kinrade, Noreau and Roche.
The 27-year-old Kinrade played for the BCHL's Cowichan Valley Capitals before he enrolled at Michigan Tech. After his fourth and final season of U.S. college hockey, Kinrade signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, finished his year with a 10-game AHL stint with the Norfolk Admirals before he was called up for his only NHL game on Apr. 9, 2009, a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals.
The six-foot, 195-pound Kinrade then signed with the Ottawa Senators, spent two seasons with the AHL Binghamton Senators and won the 2010-11 Calder Cup in his second year there.
"At the end of the second season in Binghamton, I was told that my coach nominated me to be called up [to play for Ottawa]," Kinrade said. "But instead the Senators took care of their draft picks. I understand. I wasn't angry. But it told me that I wasn't in their future plans."
So he went to Europe. After a stint with Pizen HC in the Czech Republic, he found a new home in Switzerland with Bern and made it all the way to the league final, only to suffer a heartbreaking loss to Zurich in Game 7 on a controversial last second goal.
This is the first time Kinrade has pulled on the Canadian sweater.
"It's a dream come true," he said. "In my career, I've bloomed late. When I was eligible for the Canadian under-20 team I wasn't even close. But to be part of this team the last few days has been surreal."
Jacob Micflikier (Winnipeg)
Micflikier played for Team West at the 2000-01 World Under-17 Challenge in Pictou, N.S., but after four seasons at the University of New Hampshire, where he played with current NHLer Daniel Winnik, the five-foot-eight, 180-pound forward bounced around with nine different pro teams in the past seven seasons.
He has gone from the AHL Springfield Falcons to the ECHL Stockton Thunder, back to Springfield, on to the ECHL Florida Everglades, then to the AHL Rochester Americans, back to the Everglades, then to Albany River Rats, Charlotte Checkers and Hershey Bears, all of the AHL, before he settled in Switzerland with Biel at age 28 this season.
After scoring 29 goals and 61 points in 78 games with Charlotte in 2010-11, the Washington Capitals were impressed and signed him to a one-year contract, but Micflikier has yet to play in an NHL game.
"I had some opportunities in Europe and I figured with the lockout this would be the smart move rather than stay in North America," he said. "It's been pretty special to be able to play with [Canada at the Spengler Cup]. It's a cool feeling playing on this team with a roster like this and even more special to be in the locker room with all these guys either."
Micflikier enjoyed a strong game against Davos playing on a line with Jason Williams and Duchene.
Maxim Noreau (Montreal)
Noreau suited up for the QMJHL in the Subway Super Series versus Russia when he was a junior and was pegged to play for Canada in the Spengler Cup a year ago, but instead he returned home over the holidays to take care of a back injury. This has been his first experience playing for Canada.
Unlike Micflikier, the 25-year-old Noreau has played in six NHL games for the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild signed Noreau as a free agent to a three-year entry-level contract after he went undrafted. In his last two of three seasons in junior with the Victoriaville Tigres, Noreau was an offensive force on the blue-line with 43 goals and 144 points in 149 combined regular season and playoff games.
The six-foot, 194-pound Noreau continued his offensive ways in the AHL with the Wild's affiliate, the Houston Aeros. He scored a total of 50 goals in four seasons and helped the Aeros advance to the 2010-11 Calder Cup final against Binghamton.
Noreau made the move to Europe after that Calder Cup final and has played for HC Ambri-Piotta in the Swiss League the past two years.
"I know I came over here to play when I was younger than most [Canadians]," he said. "It was a tough decision. I signed with Ambri-Piotta as a backup. We were negotiating with the New Jersey Devils, but it didn't work out. I haven't given up on the dream.
"I felt that this was a good opportunity to come over here and get plenty of ice time. I'd love to get another shot in the next couple of years. I was too nervous the first time. I feel more confident now. Being around these guys this week, I know I belong. I have the itch again and I know I'm not that far off."
Travis Roche (Whitecourt, Alta.)
Roche has been paired with his Bern teammate Kinrade in this tournament so far and the two have been steady. Both chipped in assists in the win over Davos.
Also undrafted, he is the most experienced of the four NHL-wise with 60 games with the Wild and Phoenix Coyotes. This is his third Spengler Cup for Canada. He first suited up for Canada at the 2002 Deutschland Cup.
Roche played junior with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the BCHL and then played at the University of North Dakota, where he won an NCAA championship in 1999-00 and lost to Boston College in the final the following year.
He signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Wild in 2001 and helped the Aeros win the 2002-03 Calder Cup championship. The six-foot-one, 200-pound Roche was named a first-team AHL all star with the Chicago Wolves and helped the Wolves advance to the league final.
Roche played 50 games for the Coyotes in 2006-07, but he was once again a full-time AHLer the following season in San Antonio. So he packed up and headed for Switzerland and the 34-year-old Roche has been with Bern since the 2008-09 campaign.
"I said to myself I didn't want to play in the AHL past my 30th birthday," he said. "I already was being chirped as being a 40 year old. Europe has been a good move for me. It's a tremendous place to raise a family.
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"This week has been fun. You never know how a team like this is going to mesh. But today was a good step."