“The only reason we came here is to get to this gold medal game and do everything we can to win it,” he said. “Step 1 is done, we’re in that game that we wanted to play, and now Step 2 is to get ready and get that gold medal.”
That’s not surprising. Dubois is only 23 years old but he’s already playing in his third World Championship. He has a fourth-place finish from 2018 in Denmark and a silver medal from 2019 in Slovakia. But he thinks this year is different.
“Every time it’s a good group of guys, all talented teams,” he said. “But this team, it feels like we’re on a mission. Not that we weren’t other years but I think that Sweden game was maybe exactly what we needed. To go down 3-0 and to win against a talented team gives you a boost, and it came at the right time of the tournament. Tomorrow, hopefully we don’t have to go down 3-0 but we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes in the past.”
Canada ran into some penalty trouble early in the semi-final and fell behind 1-0 on a power-play goal by David Krejci. But the Canadians evened the score in the last minute of the opening period with Dubois winning a battle for the puck behind the net and then centring out front to Dylan Cozens.
“It seems like a theme for us to go down 1-0,” Dubois chuckled. “Maybe that’s part of the adversity we’ve been talking about. But the end of the periods, those are big minutes. It says a lot about a team the way you start and end periods. When we forecheck well, we cause a lot of chaos in the other zone.”
In 2018, Canada lost to a defensive-minded Swiss squad in the semi-finals. In 2019, Canada made the final and went up 1-0 against Finland but gave up a pair of second-period goals to Marko Anttila and ultimately lost 3-1.
“I don’t remember much about that game except we lost 2-1,” Dubois laughed. His confusion over the score is understandable since the third Finnish goal came late. “I try to block out those memories. They have a lot of good players though. I remember that year we lost, I don’t think they had any NHL players. They just have a lot of depth and they play well as a team. Those are the dangerous teams.”
Despite not remembering a whole lot about the game, Dubois clearly remembers the style that the Finnish team played and is ready for a similar-style game in this year’s final.
“They’re a great team, they defend well, they don’t give you much and what they give you is around the outside of the ice,” he began. “You can feel like you have possession and you have a lot of time, but it’s hard to generate good chances from the outside and then when they counter up the ice, they go and they’ve got D-men coming up the ice. They’re a smart team, so for us, it’s just going to be about fighting for those important areas on the ice, fighting for every inch on the forecheck and on the backcheck.”
As for an additional challenge this year, “I’m sure a lot of their guys are dreaming about winning the World Championship at home. They’re in front of their home crowd so I’m sure it’s going to be loud tomorrow. We could hear it today against the U.S. in the semis.”
Despite his age, Dubois is Canada’s most experienced player in the World Championship with 27 career games as of the semi-final against Czechia. That’s one more than team captain Thomas Chabot. The two of them have played in the same three World Championships and, both coming from Quebec and born a year apart, their connection goes beyond that. They also played together at the 2015 U18 World Championship in Switzerland, where they won bronze medals, and the 2017 World Junior Championship in Canada, where they won silvers.
“‘Chabby’ is one of my oldest hockey friends,” Dubois smiled. “I think I started playing against him when I was 11 or 12, and then we were teammates on the U18s and U20s, then these World Championships. He’s a guy everybody in the room loves and respects. He’s just a positive person and that rubs off on others in a great way.”
With an ‘A’ on the front of his sweater, Dubois is also part of the team’s leadership group. Collectively, this isn’t a high-scoring team but with 60 points for the Winnipeg Jets, Dubois had the most offensively productive NHL season of anyone else on the team.
“We have a good mix of older and younger guys, guys who have been here before and guys in their first tournament,” he said. “But everybody tries to do what they know out there and help each other out. Some guys are more vocal, some guys are more the type that let their on-ice play do the talking, but I think you need a mix like that on a team.”