New team, fast pace, calm attitude: 3 keys for Canadian juniors going for gold

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Drake Batherson had a hat trick as Canada downed the Czech Republic 7-2 in the semifinal of the world junior hockey championship on Thursday night. The Canadians will face Sweden on Friday night in the gold-medal game.

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

Here are three things to know:

Canada’s Jonah Gadjovich, second right, celebrates his goal with teammates Michael McLeod, centre, Cale Makar, right, Tyler Steenbergen, second left, and Victor Mete against Slovakia during the second period of IIHF World Junior Championship preliminary round hockey action in Buffalo, N.Y. Wednesday December 27, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Same team, different story

Seven players and head coach Dominique Ducharme are returning from last year’s team that lost in the shootout to the United States in the gold-medal game. Although it was a heartbreaking loss, they insist that this is a new team and a new year.

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“It’s going to be a different game. It’s different tournament. It’s a different group,” said Ducharme, who saw his team rally from an early deficit to the Czechs.

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“I think our guys are learning a lot, we’ve been through a lot in the first round. Just tonight, the way we played the game. Trailing 1-0, early in the game, guys didn’t panic and then we established our game. All those little things we need to take and play our best game tomorrow.”

Canadian national junior team head coach Dominique Ducharme outlines a drill on the first day of selection camp for the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship in St.Catharines, Ont., Tuesday, December 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett

Speed kills

At selection camp in mid-December, Ducharme told reporters that he wanted his team to be fast and put pressure on other teams to create turnovers.

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That model has worked perfectly, with Canada’s defence and forwards working together to smother other teams for all 200 feet of the ice. It has also led to a balanced attack that keeps defences — and fans — guessing.

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

The player who has benefited the most from this system is Ottawa Senators prospect Drake Batherson, who enters play Friday in a three-way tie for the goal-scoring lead at the tournament.

“I think today we just wanted to come out and obviously just do anything we can to get a win,” said Batherson after beating the Czechs. “I was lucky enough to score a few goals and me and my linemates are just continuing our chemistry as the tournament goes on and yeah it’s been going well.”

Canada forward Drake Batherson (19) celebrates his goal against the Czech Republic during the second period of 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

Calm before the storm

Another hallmark of Canada’s junior team has been an unshakable confidence heading into each game. Even as the pressure mounts and the opponents have been more difficult, the Canadians have remained calm, cool and collected.

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“We’re all calm guys. There are no guys that are going to flip out,” said defenceman Cale Makar.

“We know if we want to get the job done, we have to be on the same page. That comes from the leadership, having guys that wear the ‘C’ and a show us how to be calm in this tournament. There are no nerve-wracking situations.”

Canada’s Cale Makar, right, celebrates his goal with goalie Carter Hart during second period IIHF World Junior Championship preliminary action against Denmark, in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

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