There's only one game remaining for several teams at the 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and that means that we're about to see some hardware handed out. Canada defeated Switzerland earlier today by a 6-1 score, giving Canada one of the two spots in the gold medal game. Tonight, the Americans eliminated the Swedes by defeating them in the semi-final by a 5-2 score, and that gives us an all-North American final. The bronze medal game will see Sweden battle Switzerland. And just for kicks, both Austria and Latvia cannot catch either the Czech Republic or Slovakia, so they will be relegated for next year's tournament.
Canada looked much better in the third period tonight after head coach Willie Desjardins blasted the leadership group for their undisciplined play. Canada responded with three workman-like goals on their way to the 6-1 win. It is this kind of quiet efficiency and teamwork that will help Canada in the gold medal game on Tuesday night. A sixth gold medal is not out of the question whatsoever.
However, the upstart Americans have everything to play for.
The 2011 World Junior Championship will be held in Buffalo, New York, and this gives Hockey USA a glorious opportunity to build some momentum for the upcoming tournament. Even if the Americans come out on the wrong side of the score, they can use the result as fodder for next year.
They will play the "underdog" role as well as anyone. It's no secret that Canada is favoured to win the tournament on home soil after having won the last five World Junior Championships. The Americans were said to be young and inexperienced, but this is a team that has bonded extremely well. They proved that in the New Year's Eve game against Canada when the heavily-favoured Canadians needed a shootout to down the Americans.
Full credit has to be given to USA head coach Dean Blais and his staff for preparing this young squad for the challenges they faced. Blais has had a pile of success at the NCAA level, giving him the opportunity to become an associate coach with the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets. He decided to take the General Manager and Head Coach position with the USHL's Fargo Force in 2007, allowing him to see some of the best young players that the country offered. Clearly, Mr. Blais is the right man for the job when you consider his resumé and this year's results.
It should be a great game on Tuesday between these two North American rivals. I'm already looking forward to it.
As for the relegation, Austria and Latvia will be replaced by Germany and Denmark in Buffalo next year. Germany went undefeated in the Division 1A Under-20 Championships while Denmark's only blemish came at the hands of the Germans.
While things may change between now and next year's tournament, Germany's Tobias Rieder might be the player to watch coming out of Germany. The 16 year-old from EV Landshut scored four goals and added two assists in five games, recorded a +7, and scored a game-winner in the Division 1A tournament. He might be a player to keep an eye on at next year's tournament for the Germans due to his age and draft eligibility.
The schedule for the remaining games at the 2010 World Junior Championship is as follows:
- 5th-place game @ 9PM EST on Monday - Russia vs. Finland.
- Bronze-medal game @ 4PM EST on Tuesday - Sweden vs. Switzerland.
- Gold-medal game @ 8PM EST on Tuesday - Canada vs. USA.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!