Recipe for success

PAUL FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- It turns out even gold-medal celebrations are sometimes planned well in advance.

Take Team Canada hero Brad Marchand, who began yesterday's pre-game preparation by raiding the refrigerator at the team hotel.

"I was walking out of the hotel, and we've got a big fridge of water, with two cans of whipped cream in there," Marchand explained. "So I grabbed one and threw it in my pocket, just in case."

Just in case what, somebody whipped up a three-layer, Devil's Food special in the dressing room during the first intermission?

Actually, the plan was to attack teammate Stefan Legein if Canada beat Sweden for the gold medal.

Sure enough, Legein, who left early in the 3-2 overtime win with a shoulder injury, showed up for post-game interviews with his face covered in the stuff.

But get this: so was Marchand's, courtesy of defenceman Drew Doughty, and doesn't that take the cake?

"When I wasn't looking, Drew got me in the face," Marchand explained. "It kind of backfired."

And so it went for a team that wasn't the most skilled Canada has ever sent to a world junior championship, but has to be right up there in the most important ingredient in the Canadian mixing bowl: character.

It's an overused term, to be sure, thrown around like candy at Christmas.

But beginning Boxing Day and through the first week of January, we always find out how much it means while watching our national junior team.

TRUE GRIT

If you watched yesterday's final, you'll know Canada wasn't as fast or skilled as the Swedes, maybe not even as the U.S., whom they beat in the semi.

Yet, thanks to a goal that personified Canadian grit -- Shawn Matthias taking the puck to the net and Matt Halischuk jamming it in -- it's the Canadians going home with gold medals for the fourth year in a row.

"We're the hardest-working team," Doughty explained. "We want it the most."

Head coach Craig Hartsburg, in charge the last two years, has certainly seen that first-hand.

"They have the passion for it," Hartsburg said. "Besides the Stanley Cup, this is probably the biggest dream of a Canadian kid, is to win this gold medal."

It's a result that appeared unlikely several times over the last 11 days, most recently when the Swedes came back from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime with 38 seconds left.

"It's the Canadian way -- we find a way," Hartsburg said.

Criticized for a lack of finish and inconsistent goaltending the whole time, the boys were under fire again.

"It makes the win ever sweeter," Marchand said.

Whipped cream and all.


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