Malmo, Sweden — Team Canada head coach Brent Sutter has made the call.
When Canada opens the 2014 world junior championship on Thursday, goaltender Jake Paterson will start in net against Germany.
Montreal Canadiens prospect Zach Fucale will serve as Paterson’s backup in net.
"I'm really excited to get the call," said the 19-year-old after morning practice at the Malmo Isstadion. "I know I’m starting (Thursday) so I’m ready to get focused and looking forward to the game."
Paterson, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit, was the third-string goalie for Team Canada at last year’s tournament in Ufa, Russia. Paterson played well in two starts for Canada – a loss to host Sweden and a win over Switzerland.
"We know Germany is going to be a pretty structured team and we know they’ll be working hard," said Paterson, a third round pick of the Detroit Red Wings. "The biggest thing is we’re going to have to come to work and play our systems."
At Canada’s camp in Toronto, Sutter had mentioned on more than one occasion that he would need to rely on both goaltenders for the tournament. On Wednesday morning, he was asked whether that plan would hold, or if Paterson would get the early run.
“Let’s see how Game 1 goes," said Sutter. “I really don’t know. You’ve got to assume when you’re playing a lot of games in a short period of time that you need both goalies. We’re going to start with (Paterson) and then we’ll make a determination after that who is going to play in Game 2."
“Regardless if it’s me or Jake we both want to win," said Fucale. "We’re both on our game and that can only be a positive for the team."
It will be a change of pace for the 18-year-old netminder who is used to seeing lots of action with the defending Memorial Cup and QMJHL champion Halifax Mooseheads.
“Even though I’m not playing I think it’ll still be important," said Fucale. “I have to make sure I’m positive for the guys and to be ready. You never know what can happen in these tournaments. Jake is playing really well, really sharp ... so all I have to do is make sure I’m ready.
“There’s no detail you can overlook in this tournament or else you give an edge to the other team."
Canada will play the Czech Republic on Saturday and Slovakia on Dec. 30 before another hotly contested New Year’s Eve game against Team USA. Many expect the game between Canada and the US to determine who will finish first in Group A, though Sutter said he wants his team’s sole focus to be on the game at hand.
“We’re focused on one team right now," said Sutter. “So let’s take care of that and move on to the next one. You can’t dwell on who you’re going to play down the road – things happen too quickly so you’ve got to make sure you’re focus is on the present and the present is the first game."
The American’s might be the defending champions, but their team is significantly different from the one that won gold last year in Ufa.
"This is not the NHL where 18 of your 20 or so core guys return the next year," said Team USA head coach Don Lucia. "We have two (retuning) guys who played and then a goalie who was the backup last year, so other than that it’s a brand new group. They haven’t experienced this tournament before and that’s why our job is to put them in the best possible position to have success."
Lucia said he would name his starter for their opening game against the Czech Republic on Wednesday afternoon in Malmo, though based on his play in exhibition, Jon Gillies is the clear favourite. Gillies, a third round pick of the Calgary Flames, won gold with last year’s team as the backup to tournament MVP John Gibson.
"As a team we’re doing really well," said Gillies. "We’re firing on all cylinders and I feel good about us going into our first game.
"There are a lot of new faces, but the goal is still the same. Everyone is aware of what we were able to do last year so we’ll have a target on our backs, but we’re going to embrace it and do the best we can."
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