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Hawks tourney travels contain one tough pill

Coburn's sojourn with Canadian team has second-place finish

Braydon Coburn arrived home on one of the few flights to land Wednesday at Portland International Airport.

His luggage and hockey equipment?

'Couldn't tell ya. Wish I knew. Somewhere between Helsinki and Portland,' the Portland Winter Hawks star said shortly after his plane touched down.

In other words, if the weather doesn't permit enough flights to arrive, Coburn might be wearing somebody else's skates, pads and gear in tonight's makeup game against Kelowna (7 p.m., Memorial Coliseum).

The strapping defenseman is just back from playing for Canada in the World Junior Tournament in Helsinki, Finland. In the final, the United States scored the game-winning goal when Canadian goalie Marc-AndrŽ Fleury tried to clear the puck up the center of the ice. His pass hit Coburn in the shoulder, and the puck bounced in the net behind Fleury. The United States, rallying from a 3-1 deficit, won 4-3.

'It's a bad break, and you can't fault Coby,' Portland coach Mike Williamson says. 'Tough to even fault the goalie.'

An American forward, Patrick O'Sullivan, converged on Fleury on the play. Many times, a goalie will clear the puck to the sideboards, or let the defenseman take it. But in the international competition, with no red line, goalies can pass up ice and not worry about two-line infractions.

'It's like any play in a game, it was in the heat of the moment, and guys do what they think is right,' Coburn says of Fleury, who was Pittsburgh's No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft.

'I don't know him well enough,' Williamson says of Fleury. 'If your goalie handles the puck well É obviously you want to be safe and 100 percent sure, but it can be a big advantage. It could have been a better scenario for Braydon to grab the puck and go.'

Before the final, the Canadians had romped to a 5-0 record. They have not won the world juniors since 1997 Ñ with Portland's Brad Isbister, the only Winter Hawk to ever play on a winning Canadian team Ñ and have finished second three years in a row.

The Winter Hawks (19-15-4-1) had their Thursday game with Kelowna postponed until tonight. The Hawks also are scheduled to play back-to-back games against Everett Ñ at Everett on Saturday and at home against the SilverTips on Sunday (5 p.m., Memorial Coliseum).

Coburn is happy to be back from his 'mind-boggling' international experience.

'The last game was a tough pill to swallow,' he says. 'But the whole tournament experience was awesome.'

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