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Canada licks its wounds, prepares for Denmark at world junior championship

NHL.com @NHL

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic - Like a pit crew, Canada was trying to mentally put the wheels back and get back in the race Sunday at the world junior hockey championships.

Their bid to win a fourth straight gold medal for their country at the tournament was still alive despite a 4-3 loss to Sweden the previous night.

But it was wasting a 2-0 lead against the Swedes early in the third period and the breakdowns that followed that still irked them.

"The emotions I've seen today is the kids were angry with themselves and what happened," Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg said Sunday after practice at Pardubice Arena.

"Nobody is feeling sorry for themselves because nobody is feeling sorry for us. Now they want to move on and get ready for the next game."

Their next game is against lightly-regarded and winless Denmark on Monday (noon ET) in the final game of the preliminary round of Pool A.

It's a win Canada (2-1) needs and a victory that could still propel them to first in the pool, but only if the Czech Republic (2-1) beats Sweden (3-0) in an earlier game by five goals or less.

Canada would then finish first on a goal differential of plus-2 between the three tied teams.

But the Czechs will need outstanding goaltending and all the adrenaline the home fans can give them to topple the big and fast Swedes.

If the Swedes win, they finish first, get the bye to Friday's semifinals and an extra day of rest as their reward.

Canada would then have get to the semis via a quarter-final win Wednesday against the third-place team from Pool B, which will be either Russia or Finland. The U.S. has already clinched first in Pool B.

"We're going to have to be mentally strong tomorrow either way," Canadian defenceman Logan Pyett said.

"Win or lose, the Swedes, we're going to try and not pay attention to that and just focus on ourselves and our own game. If the Swedes win, it's still going to be a challenging game against Denmark and we're going to want to put our best effort in and get prepared for the next game because I think it will be tougher."

Steve Mason will get his second start of the tournament Monday after a 22-save performance in a 2-0 shutout of Slovakia on Day 2 of the tournament.

Hartsburg says his choice of goaltender wasn't because he thought Jonathan Bernier lost his confidence in the loss to Sweden.

"Talking with (goaltending coach) Corey (Hirsch), that wasn't a concern," Hartsburg said. "I thought for two periods he was really good and whether he had a legitimate chance on any of the goals, I'm not sure.

"They were some funny goals. I don't know if you can blame the goaltender."

The loss ended any sense of invincibility the Canadian team may have had because their country had won a record 20 straight games in the tournament dating back to Dec. 25, 2004.

"In the last couple of years, Canada has been a little bit arrogant," forward Zach Boychuk said. "We've had this streak so long, for so many wins and I think maybe at times we thought we were just going to kind of win the games and that's not the case.

"Every game we've played has been really close and all those other countries want to knock us off, so we've got to take that and learn from what Sweden did to us last night."

Mason says it was a quiet team meeting after that game.

"Once one person starts talking everybody pays attention and listens because this is a huge tournament," he said. "Everyone on our team wants to win that gold medal. We take our meetings pretty seriously."

Captain Karl Alzner and assistants captains Pyett, Brandon Sutter, Brad Marchand and Stefan Legein met with the coaching staff Sunday morning and then the team watched a video of the loss.

What they saw was the room they gave Sweden's speed down the middle, breakdowns in coverage, missed backchecks and turnovers.

While Canada generated more even-strength chances on offence than in their first two games, they also gave up more scoring chances.

"We showed some things that happened in our game that shouldn't be part of our game, where we broke down," Hartsburg said. "Whether we're playing for first place or just to get ready for the medal round, we need to play for 60 minutes."

This is one of the youngest Canadian teams ever at the world juniors with an average age of just under 19, but Mason believes the team has the maturity and resilience to recover from the loss.

"Our game tomorrow is definitely going to be something to watch because I can tell you this Canadian team is going to bounce back and show the rest of the tournament why we're a team to be reckoned with," he said.

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