Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Hockey Lineal Championship only saw seven games of competition this year on the junior side, nearly a year apart, all in Edmonton, and cut short thanks to the outright cancellation of the 2022 World Junior Championship thanks to the Omicron variant.
Team Canada, riding a seven game win streak into the 2021 calendar year dating back to their 2020 Gold Medal victory, shut out Czechia and Russia en route to the Gold Medal Game, but despite conceding only four goals throughout the tournament (while scoring 41), they were unable to solve Spencer Knight and Team USA, who stunned Canada with a 2-0 shutout to capture their fifth World Junior Championship. And while the World Junior Summer Showcase was able to take place, due to COVID travel restrictions Team USA was separated into a split squad, thus guaranteeing the Americans holding the IHLC until December.
The 2022 World Juniors, set to take place in the original 2021 host cities of Edmonton and Red Deer, began under a cloud of uncertainty, with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 ravaging the NHL schedule (causing the removal of NHL players from the 2022 Olympics) and IIHF tournaments, even reducing each team to a single exhibition game each, which saw Team USA lose their IHLC title to Finland in overtime. Finland managed to win their first two tournament games with relative ease over Germany and Austria, but on 29 December became the second team awarded a forfeit victory, over a Czech team unable to play due to COVID. Being the second of three forfeits in two days, the IIHF ultimately ended up cancelling the tournament outright later that day, ending the tournament on day four, and leaving Finland as IHLC champions heading into 2022.
The following games were contested over the junior IHLC in 2021 (click for game recaps and boxscores):
546. 🇨🇦 CAN 3-0 CZE 🇨🇿 – 02 Jan 2021 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦
547. 🇨🇦 CAN 5-0 RUS 🇷🇺 – 04 Jan 2021 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦
548. 🇺🇸 USA 2-0 CAN 🇨🇦 – 05 Jan 2021 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦 🏅
549. 🇫🇮 FIN 4-3 USA 🇺🇸 (OT) – 23 Dec 2021 – EX – Edmonton 🇨🇦
550. 🇫🇮 FIN 3-1 GER 🇩🇪 – 26 Dec 2021 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦
551. 🇫🇮 FIN 7-1 AUT 🇦🇹 – 27 Dec 2021 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦
552. 🇫🇮 FIN 1-0 CZE 🇨🇿 (FF) – 29 Dec 2021 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦
The IHLC Rankings for 2021 were as follows (total all-time wins and rankings in parentheses):
01. 🇫🇮 FINLAND – 4 wins (80, 4th)
02. 🇨🇦 CANADA – 2 wins (115, 2nd)
03. 🇺🇸 UNITED STATES – 1 win (46, 5th)
Finland will now begin the new year with the IHLC in hand, but with no clear date as to when they would defend it. There has been very early discussions about resuscitating the tournament in summer 2022, once pro seasons and the World Championships wrap up, but it is unlikely that the Leijonat (or any national junior team) will play before then, unfortunately.