BUFFALO, N.Y.—Canada's returnees at the world junior hockey championship have been waiting 12 months for a shot at redemption, and tonight they'll get it.
Goalie 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.
Canada dumped the Czech Republic 7-2 in last night semi-final to set a date with Sweden for gold at the under-20 tournament.
“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 [Thursday], we're building every game, and we're going to be at our best tomorrow [Friday].
“And hopefully it works out for us but it's going to be a great opportunity getting back,” he added.
Hart admittedly needed a couple of 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 Philadelphia Flyers' prospect said.
“I think with the group that we have right now, it's a very exciting group,” Hart noted.
“I'm very excited for the opportunity we're getting [Friday].”
It marks 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.
Sweden, meanwhile, is undefeated entering this year's final and in search of its first gold medal since 2012.
Sweden advanced to the final after doubling the host U.S. 4-2 in the other semi-final earlier yesterday.
The two teams met in last year's semi-finals, with Canada beating Sweden 5-2 to earn a berth in the gold-medal game.
“We played well against them last year, played our way," recalled Dube. ”But they're a completely different team this year and so are we.
“It's going to be a different test," he noted. ”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.
As a result, the Canadians won't be changing much in preparation for tonight.
“I wouldn't really change it at all," said Hart. ”I think coming into this game [Friday] 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 [Friday], it's back at the grind and preparing for [Friday] night.”
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 [against the Czechs] 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 [Friday],” he added.
“That's the only thing that matters.”