World Juniors Underway: Favorites Hold Serve
The first day of action in the IIHF World Junior Championships is in the books.
Only one of the favorites was tested in Malmö, Sweden, where this year's competition is being held. The host team had to battle all the way to the final buzzer to subdue a Swiss team that continues to establish itself as a presence at the elite level. Today's results:
|Group A||Group B|
|Czech Republic||1-5||United States||Switzerland||3-5||Sweden|
Don't expect form to change in group play. Barring a monumental upheaval, this event's dramatics will be found in the bracket play, to begin on Thu 2 Jan.
Here are video previews of those favorites. The first up is Sweden, where hockey is king and where the national program has re-invented itself in the past decade to re-establish itself as a perennial favorite in all international competitions:
The Americans are the defending champions in this tournament. They've come to Malmö with plenty of roster turnover but the same expectations:
Canada didn't medal last year, which was viewed as nothing less than a national crisis in a country that truly gives the WJC the respect it deserves. So, along with its usual talent-laden roster and the swagger of its hockey heritage, this club is coming to Sweden with an attitude:
Russia, like Canada, claims hockey as a key element in its national identity. That's going to be underscored in spades in a few weeks, when the pressure on its national team to win an Olympic gold will be immense. This U20 team is serving as an hors d'oeuvre to the build-up, and this roster is up to the task:
Finally, here's a preview on Finland, the perpetual underdog, with enough talent on this year's roster to force its way onto the medal platform: