For the second year in a row, Team Russia came back home from the World Junior Championship with a bronze medal, once again beating Canada to earn that medal. If this can’t be considered a disaster, it cannot be considered a great success, either.
The Rochester Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, made their return to the Spengler Cup this winter after placing third in 1996. However, the Amerks were outmatched in the prestigious tournament this time around, allowing 15 goals and losing all three of their games. Participating in the tournament meant taking a 12-day break from AHL play, but three extra games' worth of experience can be beneficial to a young team.
For the fourth straight year, Russia earned a medal at the 2014 World Junior Championship. And, for the third time in those four years, Canada was on the losing side of that equation as Russia won the bronze medal game at this year's event, 2-1. With both countries entering the tournament with elevated expectations, playing for bronze is not something they planned on doing. But, with other countries showing improvement in their hockey programs, it may well be the new normal for these two hockey powers.
The outcome is no doubt not what they hoped for, as Russia fell to host Sweden, 3-2, in their final game of the preliminary round at the 2014 World Junior Championship. Russia lives to fight another day, of course, but the road to the gold medal game just became slightly more difficult with the loss on New Year's Eve.