VIERUMAKI, Fin. – Jordan Binnington wasn't happy when he was left off the Canadian roster for a series of games against the Russian junior team in the summer.
"I was bitter about it," Binnington, a goalie with the Owen Sound Attack, admitted following Canada's practice in Finland on Tuesday. "It was motivation for me to up my game and excel to the next level."
Three Canadian netminders took part in August's Canada-Russia Challenge, which saw two games played in Yaroslavl and two games played in Halifax. Belleville Bull Malcolm Subban won both of his starts including the overtime clincher while PEI Rocket Maxime Lagacé and Edmonton Oil King Laurent Brossoit failed to make a major impression in losing the games they played. The event was used by the Canadian coaching staff to evaluate the talent available to them for this year's world junior championship.
"I was kind of upset," said Binnington, who now finds himself competing with Subban for the No. 1 job on the Canadian team. "I felt like I deserved to be there, but so be it. The selection camp was the more important one to get to and I got there and things are going well."
Lagace (.870 save percentage in 20 games this season) was not invited to last week's selection camp while Brossoit (.903 save percentage in 22 games this season) was the one goalie let go by the team last Thursday.
The snub may have been a blessing in disguise for Binnington. During the summer, the St. Louis Blues prospect who led the Owen Sound Attack to an OHL title in 2011 decided to change his approach after getting some advice from Team Canada goalie coach Ron Tugnutt.
"I just told him to make a change to whatever he does in the summer, because what he was doing in the summer wasn't working, because every year he's gotten off to a bad start so I told him, 'Do something different,'" said Tugnutt. "'Whether that's take time away from the rink and get off the ice and play some golf or do something else, but you need to freshen your mind.'"
"He basically told me to tone it down and take a little break," said Binnington, who played some golf and spent a lot of time at the beach. "I stayed off the ice for quite a bit and it's probably the best advice I've gotten so far, because I got off to great start this year."
The strong start allowed Binnington to enter Team Canada's selection camp with more wins (17) than Subban (15), Brossoit (13) and Saginaw's Jake Paterson (11). His save percentage (.930) and goals-against average (2.31) are basically on par with Subban (.932 and 2.17). Both goalies have played 26 games.
Binnington and Subban will each start one pre-tournament game, according to head coach Steve Spott, who has yet to decide who will be in the crease on Thursday in the first exhibition encounter (vs. Finland). Whoever performs better during the next two games will have a good chance to start on Boxing Day when Canada opens the tournament against Germany.
"We're both going to go out there and play our game and control what we can control," said Binnington, who went to high school with Subban and considers him a friend. "The coaches will decide the outcome and we're going to make it as difficult as possible for them."