MALMO, Sweden — The first change after Canada’s first setback at the world junior championship will be in goal.
Coach Brent Sutter has confirmed Zach Fucale will replace Jake Paterson as the starting goalie when Canada faces Slovakia today with second place in their preliminary round group standings at stake.
Fucale watched from the bench as Canada opened with a 7-2 win over Germany before dropping a 5-4 decision to the Czech Republic in a shootout. The 18-year-old comes with biggame experience, having backstopped the Halifax Mooseheads to a title at the MasterCard Memorial Cup last spring.
"He’s a very confident guy," Sutter said. "He’s a goalie that has great ability. He’s won a Memorial Cup at a young age. He’s one of two very good goalies here and he’s going to get an opportunity."
And Fucale may have a chance to earn additional starts with a strong game against Slovakia.
"We’ll see how he plays and we’ll determine that after the game," said Sutter. "I’m taking it game to game. I haven’t said who’s going to be our number one. We have a plan in place and we’ll see how it unfolds."
Fucale played one pre-tournament exhibition game against Finland and is anxious to make his first start in a game that counts.
"It hasn’t been difficult at all," he said about waiting for his chance. "I just wanted to be supportive and stay ready all the time. I’ll just get in the net and play the best I can. That’s all I can really do."
Forward Charles Hudon, who like Fucale is a Montreal Canadiens prospect, was also in a buoyant mood at practice Sunday. He looks to have earned a regular spot on a line with Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Mantha after sharing the position with 13th forward Taylor Leier.
Drouin and Mantha share the team scoring lead with five points apiece.
Hudon got the tying goal in the third period that forced overtime against the Czechs and earned Canada an important point in the standings.
"I thought he was really good," Sutter said. "He created a lot of stuff for us and he got a huge goal at a critical time. He’s had a great attitude. He’s stayed positive."
Hudon lined up with Drouin and Mantha for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League side in the recent Subway Series against Russia, so no adjustment is needed.
"I have to go 100 per cent every shift," said the 5-10 Hudon, who was on right wing while Mantha moved to the left. "It doesn’t matter if I’m on the same line or the 13th forward."
Leier skated as the extra man on the unit with Bo Horvat, Sam Reinhart and Connor McDavid.
The 16-year-old McDavid was benched in the third period after taking his second minor penalty, both of which led to Czech goals. But Sutter put him in for Canada’s last attempt in the shootout, only to see the puck slide off the gifted forward’s stick before he could shoot.
"You (reporters) make a bigger deal of it than it is," said Sutter. "He played 13 minutes. He didn’t have the game he probably would like to have, but he’s a very important part of this team."
The top four teams go the quarterfinals, and Canada has already qualified.
— The Canadian Press
‘I’ll just get in the net and play the best I can. That’s all I can really do’