Saturday, February 27, 2010

Predator Showdown: Weber Versus Suter for the Gold

Since New Year's Day, when Ryan Suter was officially announced as a member of Team USA, he has been on a collision course with Shea Weber and Team Canada for the Gold Medal game in Men's hockey.

In the days leading up to the Olympic break, there was plenty of kidding and questions surrounding the US-Canada match last Sunday, but few experts actually believed that a US-Canada final would actually come to pass.

Suter and Weber are great friends off the ice and as teammates with the Nashville Predators, but all that will be set aside for several hours when the puck is dropped.

The Olympics have provided the Predators with more positive most national (and international) exposure than they have seen in the franchise's twelve year history, much of it due to Weber and Suter's exploits during the games.

Both have been cornerstones of their team's defense during the Olympic tournament, and have provided a surprising amount of offense as they are each ranked in the top seven defensemen in scoring.

Shea Weber has scored two goals and added four assists for Canada in six games. He is also has a plus six in the plus/minus rating. Ryan Suter has four assists and has been plus eight in five games while leading all US defensemen in minutes per game.

Ryan Suter, who hails from Madison, Wisconsin, is best known for his Olympic pedigree coming into the Vancouver games. His father, Bob Suter, was a member of the 1980 USA team that won the "Miracle on Ice" game against the Soviets on their march to the gold medal.

Ryan is only 25 years old so everything he knows about the 1980 games has been second hand from others. Ryan is much more familiar with his uncle, Gary Suter's Olympic exploits when he won the silver medal with Team USA at the Salt Lake City games in 2002.

Shea Weber, who grew up in Sicamous, British Columbia, does not have a family history in the Olympics but has become an Olympic legend this year with a slap shot that was so hard that it went through the netting in the goal in a game against Germany last Tuesday.

After Weber's shot, play continued as no one believed that it went in as it flew straight to the back wall. Only after a stoppage, a video review, and an inspection of the net was it discovered that it was indeed a goal.

Both Weber and Suter were drafted by the Predators at the 2003 NHL Entry draft that was held in Nashville. Suter was the first American taken in the draft as the seventh pick. Weber was drafted in the second round, 49th overall.

Ryan Suter's career got its start playing two years in the US National Development Program from 2001 to 2003 where he played in several international competitions and was the first USNDP player to win Gold in both the U-17 and U-18 world tournaments in 2002.

Suter spent a year at University of Wisconsin in 2003-2004 and helped the US win their first gold medal at the World Juniors in 2004. He has played in four World Championship Tournaments and a total of 58 games for the US in international competition.

In 2004-2005, Suter played for Milwaukee in the AHL and has been with the Predators since 2005. In 372 games with the Predators, he has 25 goals and 117 assists.

Shea Weber played in the Canadian Junior program witht he Kelowna Rockets from 2001-2005. In 2005-2006, he split time between Milwaukee and Nashville.

In the World Juniors in 2006, he played on one of Canada's best junior teams with current Olympic teammates Sidney Crosby, Brent Seabrook, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Mike Richards.

Weber made the permanent jump to the Predators in 2006 and has played 301 games in Nashville scoring 59 goals and adding 99 assists.

Playing in the World Championship last spring for Canada, Weber burst on to the international scene as a star when he had four goals and 8 assists in nine games as Canada took the silver medal.

Both Suter and Weber are having an excellent season with the Preds this year where they are paired together on what is considered one of the best defensive twosomes in the NHL.

The most common question asked leading up to the games was what would Ryan do if he was in front of one of Shea's massive slap shots, which are some of the hardest in the league and have caused numerous injuries for Pred players and opponents alike.

Suter has always smiled and responded that he would get out of the way. Don't believe it for a minute. With national pride at stake on Sunday afternoon, Suter will risk life and limb and do what ever he can to stop Weber's shot.

Sunday's game will be televised by NBC beginning at 2 p.m. CST.

More Later...

Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass

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