"I felt we made a mistake in building a baseball field. I thought that should have been the ice skating rink, because I think hockey in this state right now, not just hockey, but ice skating, if you come up to our office building at 6:00 in the morning, some mornings you can't get a parking spot because parents have taken their kids up here to skate...I think hockey will be a great addition to our intercollegiate program. [The Pegula gift] is a great, great gift. And I think very far-sighted and I'm really pleased with it." - Joe Paterno

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gold Standard

Curtis Loik hoisted the WJAC trophy after a physical 4-2 win over Canada East in the final. Photo: Andy Devlin/Hockey Canada Images

Next year, defenseman Luke Juha and forward Curtis Loik will be Nittany Lions. But this year, they're gold medalists. That latter distinction was clinched by Canada West's 4-2 win over Canada East in the final of the World Junior A Challenge, which concluded Sunday evening in Langley, BC.

In the gold medal match, uncommitted player Alex Kerfoot had a goal and an assist, including a spectacular tally where he undressed both a defenseman and a goalie en route to a 2-0 Canada West lead midway through the game. Forty seconds into the third period, during the only power play of the game, Ohio State-bound blueliner Sam Jardine found future Yale Bulldog Carson Cooper down low for what proved an insurmountable 3-1 West lead.

It was hardly a waltz to the point of that game-winning goal. Throughout the preliminaries, Canada West looked to be on its last legs in the tournament. They were shut out (by Sweden) and blown out (by Team USA), resulting in a last-place Group A finish.

Juha was an integral part of Canada West's quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic. Photo: Andy Devlin/Hockey Canada Images

But at Canada West's lowest point, it was the two Penn State commits who turned the team's momentum around and helped them become the first team to win WJAC gold after a winless preliminary round. In the first of three consecutive do-or-die contests, Loik scored the initial two goals in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic, one of which was assisted by Juha. Then, after the Czechs trimmed the West lead to 2-1, Juha connected on the power play to expand the lead back to two - Canada West's first conversion with the man advantage in 20 tournament attempts.

After a semifinal rematch against Group A-winning Sweden was settled with a Kerfoot overtime goal, and Canada East upset defending gold medalist USA in the other semifinal, an all-maple leaf championship tilt was the result.

In the games I was able to watch, I came away extremely impressed with both Penn Staters. Juha, who came up short in the 2010 WJAC final with Team Canada East, was called a "real smart defenseman, a good thinker" by TSN analyst Craig Button. He's a fantastic first-pass d-man, who held up well against a physical forecheck and made sound plays despite not being the biggest guy out there. On the power play he made good decisions, shooting when it was there, moving the puck when it was not. Loik is a certifiable physical presence down low who works hard in the corners. He's also dangerous on the forecheck - twice in the final he created turnovers that led to West scoring chances.

Here's a game-by-game breakdown for both players, Commit Cycle style.

Luke Juha

Defenseman
Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
5'11", 180 pounds
Mississauga, ON
Class of 2012
DOB 3/9/1993


Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM
--------------------------------------------------------------

11/8  vs. Sweden              L 0-2  0   0   0   2 [box score]
11/9  vs. USA                 L 1-6  0   0   0   2 [box score]
11/10 vs. Czech Republic      W 4-1  1   1   2   0 [box score]
11/11 vs. Sweden              W 2-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]
11/13 vs. Canada East         W 4-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]



Curtis Loik

Forward
Penticton Vees (BCHL)
6'1", 205 pounds
North Vancouver, BC
Class of 2012
DOB 4/23/1993


Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM
--------------------------------------------------------------

11/8  vs. Sweden              L 0-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]
11/9  vs. USA                 L 1-6  0   0   0   0 [box score]
11/10 vs. Czech Republic      W 4-1  2   0   2   0 [box score]
11/11 vs. Sweden              W 2-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]
11/13 vs. Canada East         W 4-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]

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