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Canada views U.S. game as but one on way to goal

by Sean Farrell

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Goalie Eric Comrie will start for Canada against the United States in the much-anticipated 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship Group A showdown on New Year's Eve.

It will be the second start for Comrie (Winnipeg Jets) in the tournament. The 19-year-old made 17 saves in a 4-0 win against Germany on Saturday.

"I think he's going to be ready," Canada coach Benoit Groulx said. "He's had a good day every day so far. We're very confident with both goalies."

First place in Group A will be at stake when Canada (3-0-0-0) plays the U.S. (2-1-0-0) at Bell Centre on Wednesday (4 p.m. ET, NHLN-US,

Zach Fucale (Montreal Canadiens) had a shutout Friday against Slovakia and gave up the only goal Canada has allowed so far in a 4-1 win against defending champion Finland on Monday.

"We built a team and we have 22 guys and the team is way more important than the game is in Montreal, and Zach Fucale is from Montreal and all that," Groulx said. "For us, we're very comfortable with both goalies and we just think that Eric deserved that start (Wednesday)."

Canada captain Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators) hardly missed a beat when reporters told him of Groulx's decision.

"We know both goalies are going to get the job done, and unfortunately there's only one net and they can't really share it," Lazar said. "One's got to be in there at one time, and the other one just gets ready to go, and that's the strength of our hockey club."

Comrie was right there to congratulate Fucale, his roommate, at the end of the game Monday. He said Fucale encouraged him at practice to have fun Wednesday after Groulx told Comrie of his decision.

"That's why you're teammates," Comrie said. "Anyone who ever played a team sport understands the dynamics of it and how close you get. If you want to win a gold medal, you're a family. If you don't become a family and become tight, you're never going to succeed. For us to be that tight, it makes us even better and it makes our team stronger."

The game will pit 2015 NHL Draft consensus top-two prospects Connor McDavid of Canada and U.S. captain Jack Eichel against each other.

"It's the showdown everyone's been talking about," Lazar said. "They're two good players for a reason. It's a big year for both of them and it's going to be fun hockey to witness and be a part of. I know for myself, being out there with Connor on the same line, I'm just trying to support him all over the ice."

McDavid is trying to tune out the noise that comes with all the attention focused on the individual matchup.

"It's there a little bit," McDavid said. "I mean, it's been something that's been there for a long time now, but at the end of the day, it's the U.S. vs. Canada, it's not me vs. him or anything like that, so it can't really be in your head at all."

Lazar marveled at the wraparound goal Eichel scored against Germany on Monday.

"He's pretty incredible -- I guess the perks of using a long stick -- but they're different players and they both have their pros and cons," Lazar said. "I can't really comment on one or the other, I mean, that's just how they are. We'll leave that to the scouts this year because that's what they're all focused on."

With all the excitement and anticipation for the game against the U.S., Groulx pointed out that each team has punched its ticket for the next round.

"I don't think it's the game of the tournament for us," Groulx said. "We want to have that game later on in the tournament. We understand that Canada-U.S. has been something different for many people, and it's been a different game for many years, but it's only one game in the tournament."

Canada has outscored its opponents 16-1 and is 5-for-10 on the power play.

The U.S., which also has allowed one goal, has scored 11 goals, though only one in 13 power-play opportunities.

"They've got a really good team all throughout their lineup," Lazar said. "Their forwards are crafty, they are tenacious on the puck and they use their speed, same with their defense. They make good plays and they also love jumping up in the rush and they've got some great goaltending as well, so we're prepared for them and up for the challenge. We're going to go out there and play for 60 minutes and see what happens."

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