Canada East has been close before, but is still looking to win its first World Junior A Challenge gold medal.
They hope that changes at next week’s 2009 event at Credit Union Place.
“I’ll definitely be looking for a gold,” said Canada East defenceman David Pratt, a member of the 2008 team that won bronze in Camrose, Alta.
The eight-day tournament for 19-and-under players begins Sunday. Canada West faces Russia at 2 p.m., and Canada East meets the United States at 7 p.m.
“Last year, they (U.S.) were the ones who put us in the bronze-medal (game),” said Pratt, referring to the United States’ 5-1 semifinal win. “We’re kind of looking for some revenge.
“It’s nice to start off against these guys. It’s an easy game to get up for.”
Canada East is coached by former NHL defenceman Todd Gill, who spent the majority of his 19-year career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Compared to your club teams, it’s not often you get four lines that are as talented as you get to coach here,” said Gill, who is general manager and head coach of the Central Junior Hockey League’s Brockville Braves. “That’s going to be a huge plus.
“The pace of the game and the talent of the players on the ice, it just makes it a dream to coach. I’m looking forward to it.”
Pratt, 18, plays for the Wellington Dukes of the Central Canadian Hockey League and compared this year’s Canada East team to the 2008 edition: “Our team last year was straight skill, lots of goal-scorers. This year, we have bigger, stronger and faster guys and we have to use that to our advantage.”
In fact, Canada East has 16 players six feet or taller.
“We have to take the defence wide, crash the corners, send it in deep and use that size and strength to our advantage, because some of these European teams don’t like to be hit,” said Pratt. “If we can slow them down a bit, because they’re all about skating, I think it will be a plus for us.”
Another key, noted Gill, is players willing to accept their roles.
“Most of these kids are the top players on their club teams, and they might be asked to do something that they’re not used to doing,” said Gill. “If they accept that, we’re going to be a much stronger team.”
Canada East centre Andrew Calof, who plays with the Nepean Raiders of the Central Junior Hockey League, said it’s been a very business-like approach at this week’s pre-tournament training camp.
“We’re all pretty focused and getting to know each other in a friendly environment,” said Calof. “But, whenever we get to the rink, it’s all business, and everyone is ready to go and win gold.”