You may not have been able to tell it was an exhibition game out there from the physical tone that was set on the ice as Canada and Sweden faced off in a World Junior Championship tune-up on Sunday night..
The pre-tournament game was an aggressive affair, and Canada's world junior players said as much after the gritty battle had finished.
"There are a lot of guys that were on that Swedish team last year and they know what it felt like to lose to us," said defenceman Ryan Ellis. "It was the second straight year they lost in the finals to us. I think that's tough so I think they're going to play for their pride too, even if it's an exhibition game, and obviously we are too. It got pretty chippy out there. There were a few scraps but the win was all we wanted."
The deep rivalry between these two teams was evident from the moment the puck dropped. Team Canada may have been outfitted in their new green jerseys, but the fresh look wasn't going to make anyone on Team Sweden forget who they were facing off against.
"I think there's a lot of bad blood out there," said forward Jordan Eberle. "Obviously what happened last year and the year before, I think they want to win. That's what we want to do too so it's obviously going to clash and it's good to see. It's a great start for us."
"They wanted to send a message to us," said team captain Patrice Cormier. "They want to show that they don't want to back down and they're ready to battle to the end. We want to do the same thing. It was a good game - a little chippy but we'll take that."
"The Swedes didn't shy away. They were kind of dirty at some times," said forward Stefan Della Rovere. "We like playing the hard-nosed game but they were getting a little chippy at us. No, we're not going to shy away from that. We're going to stick up for each other. If they want to make it rough, we'll make it rougher. We didn't back down one bit. They tried to play our style of game but we just gave it right back to them."
Team Canada has two more exhibition games before things start for real on December 26th against Latvia. Team Canada is looking for a sixth straight gold medal.