KAMLOOPS — Joe Hicketts will try to repeat what he accomplished last year in his first stint with the Canadian junior team, as the country goes for a second straight gold medal in Finland.
But it's a much different scene for Hicketts, who's now considered a veteran on this year's team, a year after being a last-minute invite.
He's one of only four returning players, which also includes Canucks forward Jake Virtanen, and today Hicketts was named an assistant captain. But Hicketts says it won't change his game.
"I think you take more of a leadership role, but in terms of on the ice, you got to do what you've been doing all year," says Hicketts, in his fourth year with the Victoria Royals. "You can't change the way you play because you're on a bigger stage. You focus on trying to teach some of the new guys what it takes to win."
Joe's parents, Mike and Lee-gaye, left for Finland on Christmas Eve, with a much different feeling this year knowing their son would be a lock for Team Canada.
"I think it's less nerves and more excitement this year," says Mike. "Last year was pretty short notice. Joe was a bit of a long shot last year, so it's pretty good this year."
Lee-gaye adds, "I'm more excited about it. Don't think I'll be sitting on the edge of my seat and worrying so much."
This year is also extra special because all the family will be joining the clan in Finland. Last Christmas, Joe's brother was busy reffing at KIBIHT.
"It makes it a bit better for me, having both my boys in the same city for Christmas this year," says Lee-gaye. "Joe's grandfather and step grandmother are coming, and some cousins. We're also meeting up with family flying in from Thunder Bay.
Team Canada, trying to repeat as world junior champions for the first time since 2009, has won all three pre-tournament games.
There have been a few concerns like giving up a four-goal lead against Sweden on Wednesday, but Hicketts says playing on the bigger ice surface will be to Canada's advantage.
Canada begins the tournament on Boxing Day against the U.S., which Hicketts says will be a challenge.
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