Team Canada is off to a hot start at the World Junior Championship, and in the middle of it all is Tri-City Americans forward Carter Ashton.
Canada is 3-0 at the tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., having outscored opponents 23-6. Today will be its toughest test, going up against Sweden, also 3-0 with wins over Norway, Russia and the Czech Republic.
"It's been a good start to the tournament for our team," said Ashton in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. "We know it's a big game against Sweden (Friday). We are preparing for that now."
Ashton, who is known as a goal scorer -- 75 career goals in 206 games -- has been playing on the checking line for Team Canada, but said he is willing to play any role that will help the team.
"It's good to have different dimensions to your game," said Ashton, who has one assist in three games. "It's a team tournament. Points and goals, if they come, will be great, but we are the shutdown line and we contribute in different ways."
While the WJC is in New York, the majority of the games are being played in Buffalo at HSBC Arena, home of the Buffalo Sabres.
Buffalo is not the most exciting city in New York, but Ashton said there hasn't been time to be a tourist.
"There is a lot snow, we have practices and our games have been in the afternoon," he said.
"When we were in Niagara, we went to the falls, but when we got here, we pretty much stay in. We know what we are here to do.
"It has been a whirlwind. It's a great group of guys and we have been having fun. We have really come together as a team."
The members of Team Canada -- and the other nine teams in the tournament -- spent Christmas away from their families, but Ashton said Hockey Canada made sure it was an enjoyable day for the players.
"Christmas here was great," he said. "We had a lot of fun."
Ashton has been rooming with forward Zack Kassian of the Windsor Spitfires.
"He's a great guy," Ashton said. "We went to the U-18s together and this morning when our parents were talking, we found out we were cousins by marriage."
Kassian has made headlines since leveling Czech defenseman Petr Senkeric during Tuesday's game.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Kassian and Senkeric collided at center ice six minutes into the second period, with Kassian's shoulder connecting with Senkeric's chest.
The hit was deemed a hit to the head and Kassian was suspended for two games. He served the first Wednesday when Canada beat Norway 10-1.
The WJC runs through Jan. 5, and depending his schedule, Ashton could join the Americans as early as that weekend, but likely not until the following week.
"I will come and do my part," Ashton said. "Hopefully I will find chemistry with a couple of players. I'm looking forward to joining the team."