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2019 Canada-Russia series: Nolan Foote lifts Team WHL and the CHL to victory

Thank the hockey gods.

Steve Hiscock - SaskPhotography

The WHL split their two games against Team Russia, and won the series for the CHL in an additional shootout. That’s probably really confusing, so I’ll break it down a little more.

Heading into the final game of the series, the WHL held a slim, 8-7 point lead over Russia (using the 3-2-1 points system in international hockey). A win of any kind by the WHL would have clinched the CHL the series victory.

However, Russia won the game in a shootout, tying the series at nine points apiece. A second shootout was used to determine the series winner, and the WHL emerged victorious.

Anyways, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Nolan Foote represented the WHL in both games, and here is how he fared.

Game 1

Well, it started positively! Foote was in the WHL’s starting lineup and played on their first line, alongside Connor Zary (2020) and Adam Beckman (Minnesota).

This game was one of the most painful matches I’ve watched in a long time. There were about 55 minutes of nothing, which involved a lot of intercepted passes in the neutral zone, turnovers that didn’t lead to anything, and both goalies going toe-to-toe with each other.

You can probably tell where this is heading — Foote was basically invisible for most of this game. He had chances, but they were few and far between. I tweeted this after the second period snoozefest on Wednesday night:

First, he wasn’t on the first powerplay unit. He was on the second unit, but the WHL’s powerplay went 0-for-4 in the game, and Foote never really got a good scoring chance on the man-advantage.

Here are the only real ‘highlights’ of his performance in this one.

It’s not necessarily Foote’s fault that he was unnoticeable. His team was too, for two-and-a-half periods. Russia dominated the entire game and skated circles around the WHL players on the ice. In fact, the Russians probably deserved a better fate than a last-minute tying goal and an overtime loss.

Game 2

The lines were shuffled a bit in this game. Foote was again on a line with Zary, but they were joined instead by Buffalo’s Dylan Cozens, which I thought was a better, more complementary player for them on that line.

Foote had some okay plays to start:

But he completely spaced on his coverage of Russia’s opening goal:

Foote was on the WHL’s top powerplay unit tonight (which also featured three defensemen on it), and it started off a little rough:

Honestly, I was not impressed by Foote through a period and a half of this one, to the point where I actually messaged the Raw Charge chat saying that I wasn’t sure he was going to make Team Canada. Well, Foote must’ve heard me, because he became a different player afterwards, and finished the night with four goals (two in regulation, and two in the final shootout).

Here’s the first goal he scored to get the WHL on the board:

And then his second goal to tie the game:

The game went to two shootouts, as I mentioned earlier. Foote was stopped in the first shootout, but scored twice in the second one:

To cap off his four-goal performance, he was named the team’s player of the game:

So, yeah, I guess I need to criticize players more often, so that they’ll turn it around? Foote’s lackadaisical defensive coverage on Russia’s 1-0 goal concerned me more than anything else, but it was really encouraging to see him explode offensively. I think his performance was bolstered by a spot on the top powerplay unit. Canada needs someone like Foote who can essentially finish at will (I still believe Hockey Canada sees a guy like Cole Perfetti as being too young for the tournament this year).

Hockey Canada will announce their selection camp roster on December 2nd, so it will be something to keep an eye on. With the performance Foote had at the World Junior Summer Showcase in August, his solid start to the season with Kelowna, and standout game at the Canada-Russia series, I’m sure he’ll be in the running to make Canada’s team next month.

Video credit to Sportsnet’s broadcasts.