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U.S., Canada ready for historic rematch at WJC

by Mike G. Morreale /
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The rematch is set, North America.
And while the U.S. National Junior Team and Canadian Juniors won't be playing for an actual medal this time around, it goes without saying that players and coaches from each side are certainly chomping at the bit for the puck to drop in the semifinal round of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. Semifinal No. 2 of the 2011 World Juniors Championship is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday (NHL Network-US).

The winner will advance to Wednesday's gold medal game at 7:30 p.m. ET (NHLN-US).

Canada will be looking to enact some measure of revenge against the U.S. on Monday before what is sure to be a boisterous and energetic crowd at HSBC Arena. The U.S., of course, snapped Canada's five-year reign as WJC champions last year following a 6-5 overtime victory in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
"I certainly have pictured what the atmosphere might be like," U.S. coach Keith Allain said. "It would be something similar to the end of a game if we were to win the gold medal. That's part of our driving motivation and it's going to be a pretty special moment."
"You don't really need to do anything to get jacked up for that," Canada defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "We're really excited and it's a good opportunity for us. The U.S. is a very good team and we're going to have to prepare well, but it all starts with resting up now and then doing what we can to prepare."

The U.S., of course, earned an automatic bye into the semifinal round after going unbeaten in Group A. The Canadians, on the other hand, were forced to win a quarterfinal-round match against Switzerland, 4-1, on Sunday for the right to meet their rival.
Canada captain Ryan Ellis admits his team will probably be considered the underdog heading into the game.
"They had a good round-robin and so did we but we did lose one game, so I guess you can throw us under the bus and say we were the underdog, but we'll take that," Ellis said. "We're proud to be there and represent our country. We just want to do our best to move on to the final round.
"The game is special because teammates and guys from minor hockey that you've played against your whole life will be on the world's stage," he said. "It's exciting ... tough to describe but it gets your blood pumping."
Both Ellis and Zack Kassian are actually teammates with U.S. goalie Jack Campbell on the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires. Really, though, it's all about the next game. Needless to say, there won't be any 'good luck' texts over the next 24 hours.
"We talked a little bit about it before we left, but we're not teammates anymore," Ellis said. "I think we might shoot the odd text, but there's not a whole lot. We know we have jobs to do."
Casey Cizikas, who has scored two goals as a high-energy role player for Canada in five tournament games, is hoping Ellis can provide some insight into Campbell's game.
"He and (Kassian) probably know the ups and downs of his game, but it happens so fast on the ice, it doesn't matter what they say," Cizikas said. "It's how you react to it and what you see when it's open."
Campbell, who sports a tournament low 1.03 goals-against average and WJC high .960 save percentage in notching four straight victories, knows Ellis and Kassian will be all business prior to the opening faceoff. He will be as well.
"Ryan and I are competitive guys and we take the Canada-U.S. rivalry seriously, so there's not going to be any taunting or anything like that this year, much like it was last year," Campbell said. "He'll have his guys ready and we just have to be ready to go."
Both Cizikas and U.S. forward Jerry D'Amigo were asked if a hatred existed between the two North American hockey powers.
"There's a rivalry there that's always been between the two countries, so there definitely is a bit, but you can't let that take you away from your game," Cizikas said. "If we play like we did against Switzerland, good in our neutral zone, on the forecheck, and limiting their time with the puck, we'll be alright."

"It gets your blood pumping."
-- Canada captain Ryan Ellis

"Well, I was drafted by Toronto and play for (the Toronto Marlies) right now so I can't say I hate them," D'Amigo laughed. "It's just a battle between two great nations competing against one another ... it's the best of the best."
U.S. forward Ryan Bourque recalls the overtime victory last year and knows it will only motivate Canada and its fans even more.
"I do know what it means and how it feels and I do know how passionate they are with their hockey," Bourque, son of Canadian-born NHL defenseman Ray Bourque said. "I play up in Quebec City (with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and I witness that every day with the great fans we have up there. It's great to be here with the American fans behind us and to be able to experience something like this just adds to the rivalry."
Despite his Canadian blood, Bourque knows his father will be rooting hard for the Americans.
"He's done a lot for Hockey Canada and they've done a lot for him and he has the utmost respect in the world for them," Bourque said. "He played for Canada in the Olympics and those Canada Cups, but when it comes to his two sons (Ryan and Chris), he's rooting for the red, white and blue. That's the most important thing in my mind."
Ellis feels both Canada and the U.S. are carbon copies of each other.
"They do everything as we do; they play hard, they play rough and they play tough," he said. "Just expect them to play exactly the way we play. They're going to come at us and we're going to go at them. There's no backing down now, you have to give it all you've got."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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