Sunday, January 2, 2011
With the Group Stage now completed at the 2001 World Junior Tournament in Buffalo, New York, the pairings are now set for the quarterfinals, which will both take place today.
The United States earned a bye into the semifinals by winning Group A with their hard fought 2-1 win over scrappy Switzerland on Friday night, while Sweden prevailed over Canada in a thrilling 6-5 game determined by a shootout in their final Group B contest, easily the best game of the tournament to date.
The quarterfinal matchups were determined by having the second place finisher from Group A, Finland, facing the third place team in Group B, Russia. They will face off today at 3:30 PM, followed by the second place finisher in Group B, Canada, playing the Group A third place team, Switzerland, in the evening game at 7:30 PM.
The quarterfinal losers will meet in an all but meaningless game on Tuesday to determine 5th and 6th place that will affect which groups they will be placed in for next season.
As for the four teams not already mentioned, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic and Norway, after finishing fourth and fifth in their groups, they have been placed in the Relegation Round to determine which two teams will be demoted to Division I for next season. Since Slovakia and Germany have already faced each other in the Preliminary Round, the result of their 2-1 overtime win for Slovakia will carry over to the Relegation Round standings, as will the result of the 2-0 win for the Czech Republic over Norway, meaning the Czechs already have the advantage of 3 points in the standings in the fight for survival which will take place on Monday and Tuesday at Niagara University's Dwyer Arena. Slovakia enters with 2 points, Germany 1 and Norway facing an uphill battle with zero. The two teams who drop down for next year's tournament in Edmonton and Calgary will be replaced by Latvia and Denmark, this year's Division I champions.
In the semifinals, Sweden will play the winner of the Russia/Finland battle at 3:30 PM on Monday afternoon. Things really promise to heat up when the winner of today's early game between Switzerland and Canada will advance to meet the United States tomorrow at 7:30 PM with a shot at the gold medal on the line, with the expected matchup expected to be the United States versus Canada that is guaranteed have the building rocking.
The semifinals losers will meet on Wednesday at 3:30 PM in the bronze medal game to determine which of the two teams will go home happy with a medal, while the other will finish on a down note with two consecutive losses.
The tournament championship will be settled on Wednesday night at 7:30 PM when the semifinal winners play for the gold medal and the IIHF championship trophy with everyone in Buffalo hoping for the host United States in a position to repeat as champions, while those from just across the border in Canada longing for another Canadian gold medal while the European teams are looking to spoil the party for the North Americans.