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Canada seeking familiar golden moment at Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup

Under-18 team driven to win after fifth-place finish ended streak of eight championships

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- Following a disappointing result last summer, Canada is looking to start another golden run at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August.

Canada, which had won the gold medal for eight consecutive years before finishing fifth in 2016, began its work with the opening of its National Men's Summer Under-18 Team selection camp at Markin MacPhail Centre in Calgary on Friday.

"We want to erase last year," said forward Joe Veleno, who plays for Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and is the only player from Canada's roster last year who's eligible to return.

"I don't think anyone wants to be satisfied with fifth place. Obviously you want to be satisfied with first. I'm going to erase everything that happened last year and start from scratch. We're going to bring some new blood and new experience onto the ice."

The tournament will be held in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Bratislava, Slovakia, from Aug. 7-12.

"I think coaching and playing for Hockey Canada, you want to win," said coach Brent Kisio, who also coaches Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. "We know we're sending the best group of players we have. It's one of those tournaments where it's the only time you send all your best over. Expectations are high. It's part of coaching and playing for Hockey Canada."

Kisio took over on July 10 following the departure of Paul McFarland, who joined the Florida Panthers as an assistant. Kisio is joined by assistants Drew Bannister, coach of Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League, and Daniel Jacob, coach of Blainville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL.

They are focused on winning gold again after last year's disappointment.

"Gold or bust isn't probably the term I would like to use, but we want to go over there and be the most prepared team," Kisio said. "We want to find a way to win. Our objective is to win gold, 100 percent."

Canada has won the gold medal in 11 of the past 13 Ivan Hlinka tournaments and in 18 of the past 21 since 1996. The United States won gold in 2003 and Sweden won in 2007. The Czech Republic won gold for the first time last year.

Canada has won gold 20 times at the Ivan Hlinka since it began in 1991.

Defenseman Ryan Merkley, one of 44 players in the selection camp for Canada and a potential top-10 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, is aware of the expectation that history brings.

"Without a doubt, when you represent Canada it's gold or really nothing," said Merkley, who will start his second season with Guelph of the OHL this fall. "You go out every time, you want to win gold and prove you're the best. It brings out the best. You want to win and play your best and prove yourself out there on the big stage."

Veleno is hoping to help Canada do just that after its rare poor showing last year.

"It was tough," he said. "It wasn't the result we wanted. We learned a lesson from that tournament, all the guys there. I'm lucky enough to get a second chance at it and take the negative and positive together and kind of think it through a little bit in what areas we have to improve as a team. Hopefully I can lead them the right way and be a good leader for them.

"The main goal is to win gold, and that's what I'm going to try to help the team do."

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