'We're going to do everything we can to win'; Junior players know Canada is watching
24.12.2007. Panzeri, Allen. Ottawa Citizen.

CHRUDIM, Czech Republic - This is the first time that Claude Giroux of the Gatineau Olympiques will be away from home at Christmas. He'll miss celebrating it with his parents, Nicole and Raymond, and sister Isabelle.

At the same time, there's nothing he'd rather be doing.

For a junior hockey player in Canada, there's no better present than a chance to represent the country in the world junior championship.

So you won't hear one word of regret from Giroux or his teammates as they labour through practices to prepare for their opening game against the Czechs on Wednesday.

"Missing Christmas, it'll be hard on me and my family," Giroux said.

"But I think they understand. There wasn't even a decision to be made. It was already made. I'm just so excited to be here. Right now these are just the most important days of my life."

That's not at all an overstatement since it's not unreasonable to say that these tournament days are also some of the most important for Canada.

The annual junior championship, which Canada has won 13 times, once more than Russia, has taken a grip on the country's consciousness unlike anything save, perhaps, an Olympic gold-medal game.

For players such as Giroux, who had 24 goals and 31 assists for his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club this season, and fellow sniper Kyle Turris of the University of Wisconsin, there will be additional pressure for them to score, even as head coach Craig Hartsburg preaches a game plan of unified defence.

So the players are under no illusions about the expectations facing them as they try for this country's fourth consecutive gold medal.

"Every time you put the Canadian sweater on, Canada expects the gold medal, and you want to deliver that for your country," Belleville Bulls centre Shawn Matthias said. "There's a lot of pressure, I guess, but no more than any other year, even if the team hadn't won three gold medals in a row.

"You want to get that medal, and we're going to do everything we can to win it."

Canada finished its exhibition schedule yesterday with a 4-2 victory against Finland.

The Finns have held their pre-tournament camp in this small town, the home of New York Rangers centre Petr Prucha, and Chrudim hockey fans appreciated having the game. The arena was filled close to its capacity of 2,500.

Matthias had two goals, one shorthanded, to lead Canada. Defenceman Drew Doughty, on the power play, and Brad Marchand of the Halifax Mooseheads scored Canada's other goals.

The Finns outshot the Canadians 33-21, so London Knights goalie Steve Mason had to be good, especially in the second period, when his teammates took six minors, including a double minor and misconduct to the Niagara IceDogs' Stefan Legein for spearing.

Niko Aaltonen and Ville Lajunen scored for the Finns.

The Canadians returned to Prague last night and will leave today for Pardubice, where they will practise this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon.

Hartsburg, who will be chasing his second gold as coach, says no one has to be reminded about what's at stake. In fact, he would like to get the players' attention off Canada's winning streak and get them worrying about the Czechs, who figure to be explosive offensively and powered by the home crowd.

"It's trying to control the things you can control," he said.

"The only focus is getting ourselves ready for the first game. This group has a lot of energy, a lot of emotion. What we're trying to make sure about is that they're channelling it in the right direction, trying to channel it into intensity and focus."

With an average age of just under 19, this is the fifth-youngest Canadian junior team in the last 25 years. As well, there are only two returning players from last year's squad, Marchand and Calgary Hitmen defenceman Karl Alzner, the team captain.

Also, while Mason and fellow goalie Jonathan Bernier of the Lewiston Maineiacs both played in last summer's Super Series against the Russians, and while Bernier opened this NHL season with the Los Angeles Kings, neither has played in this tournament.

They all figured to be tested in the opener by their Czech opponents and the fans. All tickets for the game, at Pardubice's CEZ Arena, have already been sold.

After Canada and the Czechs, Pool A includes Sweden, Slovakia and newcomer Denmark.

"There will be a real anti-Canadian feel to it," Hartsburg said. "Our kids are going to see the most intense building they've probably seen in their lives, other than if you've been a Memorial Cup or something like that."

Pool B includes Russia, the United States, Finland, Switzerland and Kazakhstan, which is back after a seven-year absence.

Those teams will play their games at Liberec.

The first-place finisher in each pool gets a bye into the semifinals. The second-and third-place teams in each pool cross over to meet in the quarterfinals. The final will be played in Pardubice on Jan. 5.

Canada has defeated the Russians in the last three finals: 4-2 last year in Sweden; 5-0 in 2006 at Vancouver; and 6-1 in 2005 at Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Other than staying out of the penalty box, Alzner says he and his teammates have to resist being too full of themselves.

"There's a bull's eye on our jerseys, no doubt," he said. "Every team is going to want to beat us, and the fans, especially here, are going to be against us.
"So we've got to make sure we're a consistent team and don't string together any amount of bad time on the ice."

За 3 место. США - Россия. Голы россиян.
Финал. Швеция - Канада
Финал. Интервью с Марчандом.
Подгруппа А
Канада, Швеция, Чехия, Словакия, Дания
Подгруппа В
Россия, США, Финляндия, Швейцария, Казахстан
За 7-10 места
Слования, Казахстан, Швейцария, Дания

1/4 финала
Канада - Финляндия
Россия - Чехия
1/2 финала
Швеция - Россия
США - Канада
Чехия - Финляндия
США - Россия
Канада - Швеция
Первая страничка турнира
Статистика турнира
Молодежные чемпионаты мира (до 20 лет) 2008 года.
Первая страничка
Дивизион I. Группа А
Дивизион I. Группа B
Дивизион II. Группа А
Дивизион II. Группа B
Дивизион III