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Canada looks to end gold-medal drought

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

TORONTO -- The opportunity to celebrate a gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship is something Canadian hockey fans have waited to do for the past six years.

The top junior-aged players for Canada will look to make that happen Monday against Russia in the gold-medal game of the 2015 WJC at Air Canada Center (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

The last gold medal won by Canada was 2009 in Ottawa, the last of an unprecedented five straight championships. Russia has eliminated Canada in the medal round the past four years, including the 2011 gold-medal game in Buffalo.

The long journey that began in August with development camp in Toronto and continued with selection camp in early December comes down to one game.

"Russia is a very strong team," Canada coach Benoit Groulx said. "They have a balanced team with four lines that can score. They are strong on pucks, have big bodies, they have strength."

They also have two exceptional goalies in Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders), the likely starter, and Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers). Canada's hopes will hinge on the play of goaltender Zachary Fucale (Montreal Canadiens).

"We need to play simple hockey," Canada captain Curtis Lazar said. "We're all in this together and we know that the game's not on one person's shoulder or another. We're out here together. Make the simple plays, good support all over the ice. Talks seem to go a long ways. And really just do what got you here, got you to this point and this opportunity. We're all capable of playing at this high level and it's a matter of going out there and executing it."

Lazar knows Russia would like nothing more than to end any hope of Canada becoming the first host nation to win gold since 2009 in Ottawa.

"They've gone through the Americans, the Swedes and they got here," Lazar said. "We've done what we have to get here as well. It's going to be an awesome game. I'm expecting a back-and-forth game. We did have that pre-competition experience against them but it's a different game. They've changed, we've changed, and I'm looking forward to going out there and laying it all on the line."

Canada defenseman Joshua Morrissey said he feels sticking to the game plan in the early stages when emotions are high will be a key.

"I think overall our team as a whole is full of pretty calm guys, and our coaching staff is great for just keeping us calm, keeping us loose," Morrissey said. "I mean, you could hear us this morning, we're pretty loud over there and just trying to enjoy the moment. It's been a great ride and we just want to end it off the right way."

Lazar, who has five goals and nine points in six games, appropriately summed up what the journey has meant to him and his teammates this year.

"Representing the country, wearing that Canadian sweater because it's always special to me," Lazar said. "Being on our home soil, the support we've gotten in the rink and outside the rink, it's awesome. I love playing here in Canada. I love being Canadian and even lining up against the best of the country for our age group. It's a lot of fun just building that relationship with Connor [McDavid] the past couple weeks, rooming with him and almost mentoring him in that way.

"It's a lot of fun playing with him too. It's pretty easy."

Here are the projected rosters:

RUSSIA

Pavel Buchnevich - Ivan Barbashev - Vyacheslav Leschenko

Maxim Mamin - Ivan Fishenko - Vladimir Bryukvin

Vladislav Kamenev - Nikolay Goldobin - Sergey Tolchinsky

Anatoli Golyshev - Alexander Sharov - Alexander Dergachyov

Rushan Rafikov - Alexander Bryntsev

Nikita Cherepanov - Vladislav Gavrikov

Rinat Valiev - Ivan Provorov

Dmitri Yudin - Ziat Paigin

Ilya Sorokin

Igor Shesterkin

CANADA

Max Domi - Sam Reinhart - Anthony Duclair

Nicolas Petan - Connor McDavid - Curtis Lazar

Nicholas Paul - Brayden Point - Jake Virtanen

Lawson Crouse - Frederik Gauthier - Nick Ritchie

Shea Theodore - Darnell Nurse

Madison Bowey - Joshua Morrissey

Joe Hicketts - Dillon Heatherington

Samuel Morin

Zachary Fucale

Eric Comrie

Injured: Robby Fabbri (right ankle sprain)

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