We’re approaching the end of the round robin of the World Junior Championship and for those of you who don’t know what that is or aren’t watching, you’re in luck because I’m here to help you join in on the fun. This is the essentials you need to know for the opening round to really understand what is going on and who can advance.
The World Juniors is a world-wide hockey tournament where ten countries assemble their best hockey players under the age of 20 to compete for a gold medal (or silver/bronze). It’s a chance for the young kids who will be getting drafted soon or already have to get the spotlight in the hockey world. The tourney is usually held right after Christmas and extends just past the New Year.
There are two Groups or “divisions” in the tournament. Group A consists of Sweden, Czech Republic, Denmark, Switzerland and Finland. Group B is the United States, Canada, Russia, Latvia and Slovakia. These are the standings at the time of this writing, courtesy of TSN.com:
Each team plays four games against their other Group rivals and the top four teams of their respective groups advance to the Quarterfinals. The exciting thing about this format is that the points scale is deeper. A win in regulation is three points. An over-time win is two points. An over-time loss is one point and a loss in regulation is no points. That means that mathematically, no team is eliminated yet. Finland could move on if they win in regulation in their final game and Switzerland loses their final two games in regulation. It keeps the standings tight and every team goes out to give it their all.
Now, the aspect of watching a bunch of teenagers play hockey may not seem like the most appealing thing to watch, but it is some of the best hockey around. Even though these kids aren’t as big or strong as the NHL’ers we’re used to watching, they bring an energy and intensity that’s equivalent to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sure, not every game sounds like some big match-up, and there are blow-outs, but all these guys come to play and they want to win for their country. Plus, there is nothing better than watching Sweden vs Finland or USA vs Russia.
Today’s action sees Denmark playing Switzerland at 4 pm C.T. then Latvia facing Slovakia at 6:30 pm CT. With a win in either regulation or over-time, Switzerland can officially eliminate Finland from the competition. For Latvia, they must pick up at least a point to stay in the race. A win would be best for them, as Slovakia still has another game to play.
If neither of those games sound very interesting to you, fret not as we have a massive New Years Eve match-up. At 1:30 pm CT, the USA will play their Northern rivals Canada in a face-off of the two best teams in the tournament. Both countries are undefeated and the winner will take the top seed going in to the Quarterfinals.
Other games on New Years Eve:
- Czech Republic vs Sweden at 12 p.m.
- Switzerland vs Finland at 5 p.m.
- Slovakia vs Russia at 7 p.m.
All games are broadcast on the NHL Network in the UA and on TSN in Canada.
Here’s some highlights from the first round: