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Canadian world juniors returnees looking for redemption when they face Sweden for gold

Canada goalie Carter Hart (31) makes a save during the first period against the Czech Republic in a semifinal in the IIHF world junior hockey championships Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes). AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

Canada’s returnees at the 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships have been waiting 12 months for a shot at redemption, and on Friday night they’ll get it.

Goaltender Carter Hart and forward Dillon Dube are part of seven returning players on this year’s Canadian squad looking to erase the memory of the 5-4 shootout loss to the United States in the gold-medal game at the Bell Centre last January.

READ MORE: Dillon Dube named captain of Team Canada

Canada forward Dillon Dubé (9) is stopped by Czech Republic goaltender Jakub Skarek (1) during third period semifinal IIHF World Junior Championship hockey action in Buffalo, N.Y. on Thursday, January 4, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canada defeated the Czech Republic 7-2 in Thursday’s semifinals to set a date with Sweden for gold at the Under-20 tournament.

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READ MORE: Canada dispatches Sweden to advance 2017 world junior gold medal game

“It’s where we want to be heading into it so it’s nice to have that opportunity,” said Dube. “We played a good game tonight, we’re building every game and we’re going to be at our best tomorrow and hopefully it works out for us, but it’s going to be a great opportunity getting back.”

Canada Ggoalie Carter Hart (31) and forward Sam Steel (21) celebrate a goal during the first period against the Czech Republic in a semifinal in the IIHF world junior hockey championships Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes). AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

Hart admittedly needed a couple days to put last year’s loss behind him.

“I got a week after that to kind of reset and go home, but that’s a year ago now and a lot of things have unfolded since then,” the Flyers prospect said.

“I think with the group that we have right now, it’s a very exciting group. I’m very excited for the opportunity we’re getting tomorrow.”

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Friday will be Canada’s third trip to the final in four years at the world juniors, but the Canadians have just one gold medal from the previous eight tournaments.

READ MORE: Alberta’s Carter Hart ready to lead Canada at World Juniors

Sweden is undefeated entering this year’s the final and in search of its first gold medal since 2012. The two teams met in last year’s semifinals with Canada defeating Sweden 5-2 to earn a berth in the gold-medal game.

“We played well against them last year, played our way,” said Dube.

“But they’re a completely different team this year and so are we. It’s going to be a different test, we’re going to watch some video so we know what to expect heading into it. Overall it should be a good game.”

Canada’s lone hiccup at this year’s tournament came at the Dec. 29 outdoor game at New Era Field when it fell 4-3 in a shootout to the Americans. Since then they’ve outscored Denmark, Switzerland and the Czech Republic by a combined 23-4.

READ MORE: USA & Canada take hockey rivalry outdoors at world juniors

As a result, the Canadians won’t be changing much in preparation for Friday.

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“I wouldn’t really change it at all,” Hart said Thursday night. “I think coming into this game tomorrow night prep stays the same for not just me, but for all of us. We’re going to get a good sleep tonight and then tomorrow morning it’s back at the grind and preparing for tomorrow night.”

Canada forward Drake Batherson (19) celebrates after scoring against Czech Republic goaltender Josef Korenar (30) during second period semifinal IIHF World Junior Championships hockey action in Buffalo, N.Y., on Thursday, January 4, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Hart and Dube along with Jake Bean, Kale Clague, Dante Fabbro, Michael McLeod and Taylor Raddysh represent the returning core at this year’s tournament. With last year’s experience in their arsenal, the message to the newcomers is simple.

“I think this win is over with now and just try to prepare for the real deal,” Hart said. “The only thing that makes this win sweeter is if we win tomorrow. That’s the only thing that matters.”

Dube, the Canadian captain, had one assist in Thursday’s win and now has two goals and two helpers in six games. The Calgary Flames prospect was at a loss for words to describe what a win Friday would mean.

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“It’s hard to explain,” he said. “With the guys that were here last year, what we went through was tough, but that’s good, I think it gives us more motivation. It’d be unbelievable, but I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves here. Just focus on the first period even tomorrow.”

Canada forward Jordan Kyrou celebrates his goal during the second period against the Czech Republic in a semifinal in the IIHF world junior hockey championships Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes). AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes

 

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