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World Junior Championship PRIMER: Everything you need to know

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A comprehensive look at a very interesting edition of the World Juniors, starting the day after Christmas!

Just the Facts:

The Place: Buffalo/Orchard Park, New York, USA

The Event: The Under-20 World Junior Championship, popularized in the late 80’s/early 90’s by TSN, and has since been a staple of Canadian sports culture. This has caught on to die-hard hockey fans in other countries as international rivalries are born and reborn at these players’ most formative years.

Defending Champs: USA, Baby!

Place to Watch: TSN in Canada, NHL Network in the US. TSNGO will have an Online Stream.

The Groups:

Group A:

  • United States of America
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Slovakia
  • Finland

Group B:

  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Czech Republic
  • Switzerland
  • Belarus

Anything special about this year’s tournament?: Oh boy do we have one thing:

USA vs. Canada, in an outdoor rink at New Era Field, in Orchard Park, New York on the 29th.

A milestone game for the IIHF, who have never had any World Junior teams play outside until now.

...Could’ve done without the repurposed Bills jersey, though.

Bruins at the World Juniors:

We have a nice group page here for keeping up with all the players that end up playing for their respective squads. For right now, it breaks down like so:

USA: Trent Frederic, Jordan Swayman, Ryan Lindgren

Finland: Urho Vaakanainen

Sweden: Oskar Steen

Group Previews:

Group A:

  • It’s basically USA and Canada’s group, and Denmark, Slovakia, and even Finland are just living in it.
  • USA and Canada as per usual have an embarrassment of talent on their hands, with the US about as stacked as it can possibly be on offense and sporting three Hockey East goalies, while Canada is...well...Canada at an international event. Or so you’d think. The Red, Black and White have cut some of their most talented forwards to the absolute bewilderment of a lot of commentators. Who knows if those skilled scorers might come in handy? Of course, they’re still Canada, so...
  • The real intrigue is everyone else: How is Finland is going to respond to their absolutely disastrous performance last year, which resulted in their coaching staff getting canned? Their new coach, Jusse Ahokas, has been quite successful for the U17-18 teams, and replaced their head coach midway through last year’s tournament, and has had some success in giving Leijonat some hope.
  • Meanwhile, Denmark of all places has slowly begun to emerge as a strong team, with one of their best finishes ever coming in last years tournament, sitting on the back of phenomenal penalty killing and goaltending. Can they improve on 5th place with such vicious talent in their group?
  • And what of Slovakia, whose been slipping in international play, recently? Only barely missing regulation last year, and has been having all sorts of internal complications and drama in the higher ups?

Group B:

  • Much like Group A, it’s a dogfight between Russia and Sweden. Both sides are world-class nations at this, Russia’s team will likely have pressure from home to do some dominating and Sweden hates Russia like few others (except maybe Finland.), so expect these games to be tight and vicious.
  • The Swiss will be looking to improve on the results they got from last year, being a cardiac kid bunch in which all of it’s positive results came from charging back into games or hanging on, then winning in overtime. Most notably, they played the US close in the 2nd/3rd period of the Quarterfinals, once again charging back into the game until Jordan Greenway put the cap on them.
  • The Czechs will be looking to just have a half decent tournament that doesn’t involve OT losses. Had they not run into tournament darlings riding hot streaks, they’d have likely had a much better run of things.
  • Returning to the world juniors is Belarus. They tend to go through cycles of getting relegated, earning promotion, then getting relegated again, usually trading spots with Latvia. Their team spun well on the wheel of promotion/relegation, so good luck to them as they have to face three major hockey powers and a nation on the slow burn of power. And that’s just in group.

2018 World Junior Championship Schedule - Round Robin stage:

Day 1 - Tuesday, December 26th:

  • Czech Republic vs. Russia - Noon
  • Belarus vs. Sweden - 2pm
  • Canada vs. Finland - 4pm
  • Denmark vs. USA - 8pm

Day 2 - Wednesday, December 27th:

  • Switzerland vs. Belarus - 3pm
  • Slovakia vs. Canada - 7pm

Day 3 - Thursday, December 28th:

  • Finland vs. Denmark - Noon
  • Russia vs. Switzerland - 2pm
  • Sweden vs. Czech Republic - 4pm
  • USA vs. Slovakia - 8pm

Day 4 - Friday, December 29th:

  • Belarus vs. Russia - Noon
  • Canada vs. USA (OUTDOOR GAME) - 3pm

Day 5 - Saturday, December 30th:

  • Czech Republic vs. Belarus - Noon
  • Sweden vs. Switzerland - 2pm
  • Finland vs. Slovakia - 4pm
  • Denmark vs. Canada - 8pm

Day 6 - Sunday, December 31st:

  • Switzerland vs. Czech Republic - Noon
  • USA vs. Finland - 4pm
  • Slovakia vs. Denmark - 6pm
  • Russia vs. Sweden - 8pm

Finals will be given their own post along with prospect updates. Good luck to all nations competing in the World Juniors! (But especially ones with B’s prospects on their team!)