A year later it's Spengler Cup instead of world juniors for Justin Pogge

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Between last year's world junior hockey championship in Vancouver and this year's Spengler Cup tournament, Pogge is a perfect 8-0-0 wearing the Canadian jersey. "Not too bad at all," the 20-year-old goaltender said with a laugh Thursday.

A year ago at this time the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect was slamming the door shut for Canada at the world juniors, allowing only six goals against en route to a gold medal.

The Spengler Cup is a more wide-open affair with more goals than a world junior tournament but Pogge has backstopped Canada to a 4-3 shootout win over Mora IK and a 6-3 victory over host HC Davos.

"It's a little different experience because it's more laid back off the ice," Pogge said in comparing the Spengler Cup to last year's world juniors. "On the ice, it's a whole different battle, too, you're playing against European teams that have played with each other all year. Just totally different systems that they're throwing at you.

"They're waiting for the quality shots rather than just taking shots. It's a lot different."

Canada, made up of European-based pros and AHL prospects, is the only team in the round-robin with a perfect record so far. The Canadians (2-0-0) didn't play Thursday as they prepared for Friday's game against Russia's Khimik (check local listings). Khimik fell to 0-2-0 after dropping a 4-1 decision to EHC Eisbaren Berlin (1-1-0) on Thursday.

HC Davos (2-1-0) rebounded from its loss to Canada with a 4-1 win over Mora IK (1-2-0) on Thursday, giving the hosts second place in the standings.

The top two in the five-team round-robin play meet in the championship game Sunday on New Year's Eve. Canada completes its round-robin Saturday against EHC Eisbaren Berlin.

Pogge, meanwhile, has enjoyed playing for veteran head coach Pat Quinn in Davos.

"It's really cool," said Pogge. "He's a great coach and he has a lot of experience that he brings to the table. He's a great guy to play for."

Pogge was in the national spotlight last year thanks to his stellar world junior performance as well as being named the Western Hockey League's most valuable player and top goaltender for the 2005-06 season with the Calgary Hitmen.

This season has been more low-key for the native of Penticton, B.C., as he makes the jump to professional hockey. He's 5-9-0 with a 3.27 goals-against average and .898 save percentage with the AHL's Toronto Marlies, a team that gets nearly no attention in Canada's biggest city.

"Yes, it's definitely quieter this year," agreed Pogge. "I'm in a learning stage all over again. It's like my first year in the Western Hockey League, I had to learn a lot then. This is my learning year."


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