WHAT’S AT STAKE
While Team USA has guaranteed itself a spot in the quarterfinals regardless of the outcome of today’s game, Group B placement is on the line. Entering play today, Finland leads Group B with seven points, with Slovakia and the U.S. next with six points, Switzerland has four points and Latvia, which has completed preliminary round play, has one point. Slovakia and Switzerland faceoff today before the U.S.-Finland match-up. The U.S. can finish anywhere from first to fourth in the group. With a win in regulation, Team USA will guarantee itself a top-two spot.
Group A, which includes Canada, Czechia, Sweden, Germany and Austria, has been playing its preliminary round games in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and two final prelim games are being played there today with Czechia facing Germany and Canada taking on Sweden.
The top-two finishers in Group A will remain in Halifax for the quarterfinal round and the top two finishers in Group B will stay in Moncton for the quarterfinals. The only caveat is that Canada will play its quarterfinal in Halifax regardless, so if Canada finishes third or fourth, that will mean one of the top two finishers in Group B will have to travel to Halifax for a quarterfinal game, where both semifinals and the two medal games will also be staged.
The quarterfinal matchups are crossover in nature, with match-ups below:
The U.S. and Finland have played 36 previous times in the World Juniors with the Finns having won 18 times, the U.S. 17 times, and one game ending in a tie. The teams last met in the semifinals of the 2021 World Juniors, with the U.S. earning a 4-3 win. Team USA would ultimately go on to win the gold medal. The two teams did meet in a pre-tournament game ahead of the 2023 World Juniors, with the U.S. gaining a 5-2 win on Dec. 19 in Quispamsis, New Brunswick.
Following today’s game, the U.S. will be have a day off before its quarterfinal game on Jan. 2. The opponent, location and game time will be determined following today’s final day of preliminary round play.