The schedule for 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship – officially unveiled Friday – includes 20 preliminary-round games, beginning with Sweden vs. Denmark
on Boxing Day in Montreal, and ending with Slovakia vs. Russia on New Year’s Eve in Toronto.
In between, before the medal round – including Canada’s quarter-final and semifinal – is played in Montreal, there are a few games that hockey fans simply
CANADA VS. RUSSIA
Monday, Dec. 26 | Air Canada Centre, Toronto
The last time the Air Canada Centre played host to Canada-Russia, it was Jan. 5, 2015. That game merely saw the host team build a four-goal lead, withstand
a furious comeback and deliver a gold medal for Canada, its fourth in a decade at the expense of its longtime rival. Time will have passed – 721 days to be
exact – but hostilities wouldn’t have, especially since the teams missed each other in 2016, only the fourth time since 1993 they didn’t meet. Goals will
be scored – Canada owns the only shutout, 5-0 in 2006 – as the hosts looks to increase their all-time series lead, which currently sits at 12-10-1.
FINLAND VS. DENMARK
Tuesday, Dec. 27 | Bell Centre, Montreal
The defending champions, who could have as many as nine players back from 2016, including prospective first-round NHL draft picks Olli Juolevi, Patrik
Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, take on the darlings of the World Juniors. The Finns and Danes don’t have much history against each other – it’s only the
second-ever meeting between the nations (Finland scored a 10-1 victory in Edmonton, Alta., in 2012) – but Denmark has been the feel-good story of the
tournament in recent years, pushing eventual silver medallist Russia to overtime in the quarter-finals last year and qualifying for its third-consecutive
IIHF World Junior Championship, while Finland, quite simply, holds the gold and is one of the teams to beat.
UNITED STATES VS. RUSSIA
Thursday, Dec. 29 | Air Canada Centre, Toronto
For the past three years the story has been the same, only the location has changed: Russia defeats the United States in the medal round. First it was two
goals from Nikita Zadorov turning a 3-2 deficit into a Russian lead in an eventual 5-3 quarter-final victory in 2014, followed by a 39-save performance
from Igor Shestyorkin in a 3-2 quarter-final win in Montreal in 2015. Just last year, two goals in 2:48 led to a 2-1 semifinal success. Russia has taken
the last five games between the teams, and 12 of 17 overall. The United States last won in 2008, when it fired 49 shots on Sergei Bobrovsky in a 3-2 win.
SWEDEN VS. FINLAND
Thursday, Dec. 29 | Bell Centre, Montreal
The European equivalent of the Canada-U.S. rivalry, these Scandinavian showdowns are always an amazing spectacle at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Just look at the last three times the teams have met – all in the medal round: the Finns edged the Swedes 2-1 in the semifinals last December en route to
gold medal, a three-goal third period helped Sweden pull away in a 6-3 quarter-final victory in Toronto in 2015, and the Finns denied the Swedes a home-ice
gold in 2014, getting an overtime winner from Rasmus Ristolainen to give them their first World Juniors gold medal since 1998.
CANADA VS. UNITED STATES
Saturday, Dec. 31 | Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Old acquaintances shall be renewed on New Year’s Eve. This will mark the 11th meeting between Canada and the United States on Dec. 31, the
seventh since the turn of the century. Maxime Ouellet and Phillippe Sauvé allowed only a goal each in a 1-1 tie in 2000. Justin Pogge and Jake Allen came
up big in net to lead Canada to wins in 2006 and 2010; in between a John Tavares hat trick sparked a Canadian comeback in 2009. Mark Visentin and Zach
Fucale preserved close 3-2 wins in 2012 and 2014, and, two years ago, multi-point games from Sam Reinhart and Maxi Domi fueled a 5-3 Canadian win in