After COVID-19 forced the 2021 World Junior Championship into a bubble, the tournament returns to Alberta, Canada for 2022, with Edmonton and Red Deer hosting the world’s top under-20 hockey teams in front of fans for the first time since January 2020, just before the world changed forever.
Group A, hosted in Red Deer, features defending champions the United States competing against Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and Slovakia, with Team USA looking to repeat for the first time ever. Sweden, whose 53-game preliminary round win streak from 2007-21 was thwarted in last year’s bubble, will be looking to buck their Quarterfinal exit trend, while Russia will be looking to avenge last year’s embarrassing semifinal thrashing to Canada. Slovakia and Switzerland, the unlikely last-place finisher in their group in 2021, will likely be duking it out to avoid playing in the relegation round.
Group B, hosted in Edmonton, features the home nation Canada facing off against Finland, Czechia, Germany and Austria, with Canada looking to return atop podium on home ice, this time in front of fans (albeit less than usual). Finland will look to get over the hump of consecutive Semifinal losses and return to Gold for the first time in three years, while the Czechs and Germany will be looking to improve on disappointing finishes in 2021. And Austria, whose promotion in 2019 turned into a two-year residency in Edmonton, will be fighting for survival, trying to avoid relegation back to Division IA in 2023.
Click here to see the full 2022 World Junior Championship schedule
From the perspective of the IHLC, a few interesting facts related to this year’s World Junior Championship:
– Finland enters as incumbent champions for the first time since 2019 (when they captured Gold), and for the eighth time in history
– this is the sixteenth World Junior Championship to be hosted in Canada; Edmonton is hosting for the fourth time (and second consecutive year), previously serving as a satellite host in 1995 (won by Canada), co-hosting with Calgary in 2012 (won by Sweden), and being the sole bubble host in 2021
– the United States is looking to win back to back Gold for the first time in history, and their sixth Championship overall
– Canada is looking to win Gold on home ice for the first time since 2015, and first in the province of Alberta since 1995
– this tournament will mark the return of relegating the bottom team to Division IA, after a one-year pause due to COVID; this team will be replaced by Belarus in 2023
– the only returning award winner from 2021 is Finland’s Topi Niemelä, named Best Defenceman last year
After yesterday’s exhibition victory over the United States, Finland will enter the tournament with the International Hockey Lineal Championship, ensuring that the title will run through Group B in Edmonton – who leaves Alberta with the title, and ostensibly World Junior Championship Gold, remains to be seen!