As the hosts of this 2013 Under-18 World Junior Championship, the Russians would love to prove that they are the best hockey country of the world. They won their last gold from this event in 2007, but last year failed to reach a medal position. As you know, hockey always carries a huge importance in Russia, but now, with the tournament on their own soil, they will probably make an even bigger deal out of this tournament. Unfortunately, the Russian Hockey Federation hasn't released the final roster as of this writing, but there are some names that should be in the mix once the WJC gets underway.
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Last year, Latvia participated in the U18 World Junior Championship for the first time since getting promoted from Division I in 2011. Many experts and journalists expected the Baltic state to fight to keep themselves in the elite group, but Latvians took their mission to another level.
The Czech Republic has failed to medal since being promoted to the elite division in 2008. In the last two years at the U18, they had to fight to avoid relegation both times, but now it finally looks as if they have a real chance to get past the preliminary round and compete against the strongest of the participants.
The 2013 IIHF U18 World Junior Championship gets underway on Thursday. The teams are ready in Sochi, Russia, the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games being held next year. Group A of this U18 features much anticipated matchups between the hosts of the event, Russia, a perennial contender and winner of four past WJC's at the Under-18 level, and the United States, powered by their smart National Team Development Program (U.S. NTDP).
For two years running, Switzerland’s U18 team hasn’t been able to prevent itself from winding up in relegation round play. Once there, the teams have been able to finish on top and thus, seventh overall in the tournament. This year’s team is confident it can get over that hump and it will look at the performance of its U20 team in Ufa for inspiration.
Team Sweden can proudly look back upon three straight silver medals. What has certainly left a very bitter taste in the program’s mouth is the fact that all three have been pushed upon them in the gold medal game by Team USA, who has accordingly won three straight gold medals. It isn’t enough that several of the current team’s players not only experienced last spring’s 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Team USA, but several others also found themselves subjected to the 3-1 gold medal game loss to the US at the WJC this past winter.
Coach Ernest Bokros has been double-shifting this winter as the U20 and U18 Slovakia national team coach, but he’ll only be bringing one player to the upcoming U18 who was also with him at the WJC, namely forward Martin Reway. And that’s only if Reway is healthy enough to go. What he’ll also be bringing along with him are three of the five oldest players at the tournament as well as the tournament’s youngest participant.
In the past two years, Germany has managed to ice a U18 tournament entry that has competed strongly in finishing a solid sixth on both occasions. Along the way, the team was able to grab the odd unexpected point or push a favorite to the brink of defeat, for example, when it beat Russia 4-2 in 2012 or in its 5-4 and 4-3 losses to Russia and Canada respectively in 2011.
Canadian national team coach Don Hay is heading to Sochi as a man with a great deal of experience ranging from the NHL (Calgary and Phoenix) right on down to over 20 years of experience in Canadian juniors, having won the Memorial Cup on three separate occasions. Now it’ll be his duty to quickly turn an extremely talented group of young men into a championship caliber team.
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