Coming home

zach fucale

David Brien

Zachary Fucale leads his team to the ice for warmup prior to facing Slovakia during preliminary round at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

(ISN) – Zach is back, and he’s ready.

One year after manning the nets for Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, Zach Fucale will get a second chance at gold, and he’ll get to do it on familiar ice.

Not only will the Canadians be playing at home – based in Montreal, Que., for the preliminary round – but the goaltender will represent his country just 34 kilometres from his hometown of Rosemère, Que.

That means a little more in-person support than he got last year in Malmö, Sweden.

“It’s always fun to have your parents, brothers and sisters at the games,” Fucale says. “My friends will follow the tournament, too, so I’m really happy that it’s so close to home and that I can get the added support.”

But the 2015 World Juniors will be more than just a homecoming. The 36th pick of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, Fucale will play at the Bell Centre, which he hopes is his future hockey home.

“It’s incredible to be in a building known for its fans and their passion,” he says with a smile. “For sure, it was a childhood dream [to be drafted by the Canadiens], and each time that I get to go on that ice, it’s a dream come true.”With the excitement of playing in Canada, though, comes the pressure of playing in Canada.

No team has higher expectations at the World Juniors than Team Canada, but Fucale uses the pressure of playing on home ice as a source of motivation and he doesn’t let himself be distracted by the huge challenges that the World Juniors represent.

“It’s a nice challenge,” he says. “It’s not something that you get to do all the time, so you try to get the maximum out of it. We certainly won’t be lacking in motivation playing at home, that’s for sure.

“We are really happy to be here, in Canada, with our fans behind us giving us energy and coming to support us throughout the tournament. It’s a huge positive for the entire team.”

Fucale is quick to point out, though, that Team Canada is never short on fan support, regardless of where the IIHF World Junior Championship is being played, whether it is in Canada or not.

“In Sweden last year, thousands of Canadians had come over to cheer us on and we could feel it,” he says. “This year, it will be different, for sure, since the fans are all behind us and they are loud.”

But whether the World Juniors are in Sweden or Canada, Malmö or Montreal, Fucale says that for the team, it doesn’t matter; the preparation for every game doesn’t change, and the end goal, of course, remains the same.

“We get ready in the same way. I have been to two and there really is no difference”, he says. “We’re always together as a team; we train together, we do our activities together at the hotel and we really have no time to get distracted.

“We have fun and no matter where we are, we want to play, win games and win the tournament. That is our goal.”

Winning the tournament carries extra meaning for Fucale and the six other players who return from last year’s World Juniors. Not only do they want to win Canada’s 16th gold medal at the tournament, and fifth on home ice, they want to erase the sting of a fourth-place finish in Malmö.

But ask about 2014, and Fucale says there is no comparison to be made.

“It’s a new year, we have new players, a new core of players, so we can’t compare the two teams,” he says. “We are a tightly knit team, so we try to help one another as much as possible and that’s how we will succeed.”