After being the backup goaltender for the majority of Canada’s silver-medal run during last year’s World Junior Championship, Victoria’s Dylan Garand cares about gold and nothing else a year later.
It was tough for the then 18-year-old to watch as his team’s only loss came against the United States in the 2021 World Junior final after Canada had such a strong tournament.
“It was pretty heartbreaking, but I think it fuelled me going into this year – knowing that the only thing that really matters is that final game and coming out victorious,” Garand said.
The Kamloops Blazers star played one period in last year’s tournament, during Canada’s Boxing Day blowout win. It’d be a “special feeling” to lead Team Canada onto the ice on Dec. 26 this year, but Garand maintains that doing whatever he can to help Canada win gold eclipses his pursuit of being the number-one goaltender.
The 19-year-old will be one of just three returning players for Canada. It’s been a less stressful December this year because Garand knew his spot was secure with only three goalies being invited to the pre-tournament selection camp. But it’s still special, going from a Juan de Fuca Grizzlies jersey to one donning the Maple Leaf.
“Growing up as a kid, you dream of playing for Team Canada … I’m looking forward to chasing down a gold medal.”
After the pandemic confined the last World Juniors to a fanless bubble, the Canadians are eager about the prospect of a venue with people cheering in the stands.
“The biggest thing that we’re all excited for is fans – last year, we didn’t get to experience that.”
It’s yet to be known who’ll take to the crease when Canada faces the Czech Republic on Boxing Day. All three goalies know they’re competing for the top job, but their focus is on the collective and doing whatever they can to give Canada a shot at its third gold in five years.
The New York Rangers draft pick said he’s confident that the speedy and skilled Canadians are ready for any challenge or adversity the tournament brings their way. Garand is also confident that he’s a better goalie than the one who had to watch on as Canada fell just short last year.
“I’m liking where my game has been at this year and I know that if I get the chance to play goalie, then I can give us the chance to win.
“The only thing I’m looking at is winning a gold medal when it’s all said and done.”
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