The IIHF World Junior Championship Tournament gets under way this weekend in Alberta and the NHL Network will carry all of the action beginning on Monday the 26th. It was just announced that the NHL Network will continue to be the broadcast medium for the World Juniors for the foreseeable future as their exclusive rights were extended until 2018; great news for hockey fans throughout the US.
To be quite frank, my affinity towards the WJC didn’t truly blossom until a few years ago when I watched a a good bulk of the action culminating in a dramatic USA OT victory over our arch rivals from the north. Growing up, my view of the hockey realm was myopic to say the least as my bitterness towards the WJC stemmed from the exorbitant number of Hockey East stars who were jettisoned off campus to play in the WJC. I always felt some sort of resentment because the Junior Tournament would take integral parts of the teams I followed intensely away for a critical week in Hockey East play. In those days, the World Juniors were not broadcast on any large national networks and in my youthful mind, the tournament was simply an event held in a far off land that might as well have been played on Mars.
Now that I have evolved and my view of the college hockey scene has become less provincial and more flattened out so to speak, I now can fully understand the magnitude and importance of the WJC. My gratitude can be extended to the NHL network and to John Carlson (scored the game winning goal for Team USA in ’10) for getting me hooked on the annual event in a time of the season where Hockey East action is scant at best. The tournament provides a platform to view young budding stars from around the globe who come from all circles of professional and amateur hockey. It provides a benchmark of sorts as college stars are openly competing and in most cases, playing alongside many of the upper echelon major junior players.
For THE BEST coverage of the WJC please follow the Chris Peters’ site at The United States of Hockey and of course pick up his Twitter feed for constant updates. Lindsay Berra of ESPN also is covering the event and Dave Starman offers his insightful coverage (@DaveStarmanCBS) tweeting live from Alberta with all of the latest news and roster updates.
Team USA and Team Canada seem to be looked at as the favorites once again this year and will look to retake the Championship title back from Russia who beat the Canadiens in the finals last year. Russia is playing this year with a heavy heart however as three of its 2011 Gold medal team members were lost in the tragic Lokomotiv plane crash this past year. For a meticulous WJC team by team preview, visit the Pipeline Show blog.
Team USA is very strong up front and is led by its stalwart goaltender Jack Campbell who returns for his 3rd stint. They have a hulking defensive corps that is lacking in depth;
the recent loss of defenseman Seth Jones to injury in an exhibition game does not help matters.
Chris Peters gave us his prediction on what we can expect from a line up standpoint as the official roster was unveiled at 10:30AM EST this morning. The lineup does have some Hockey East flavor as always; Connor Brickley (UVM), Charlie Coyle (Formerly of BU), Adam Clendening (BU), Bill Arnold of BC. Gaudreau as expected was one of the final cuts but with the experience he gained in the process, will undoubtedly be a top contender for next years team. Overall, there were 15 collegiate players who made the final cut this morning which speaks to the quality of talent in the NCAA ranks. My ultimate hope is that Team USA takes gold of course but if they can find a way to do it without any contribution from Charlie Coyle, that would be even sweeter. I find it difficult to root for a guy that bailed on his college team mid season and fled to juniors as Coyle just announced last week.
Tis’ the Season for Holiday Tournaments
On the airwaves:
|Fri||30-Dec||Great Lakes Invitational Championship||Fox College Sports Atlantic||7:00pm||TBD|
|Fri||30-Dec||Harvard at North Dakota||Fox College Sports Central||8:30pm||TBD|
|Sat||31-Dec||Boston University at Notre Dame||VERSUS||7:00pm||603/151|
Several holiday tournaments and interesting non league battles take the scene over the next few weeks. The Great Lakes Invitational is one of the great annual traditions in college hockey and this year, BC is on the docket as the 4th team which sets up some exciting potential matchups with regular participants, Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech. Michigan Tech is seemingly the Northeastern/Harvard of this tournament as they haven’t won since 1980 and this year should be a daunting task for them as well with the #3 team in the nation added as the annual invitee. In terms of tradition, I would argue that this tournament probably comes the closest to matching the much heralded Beanpot as any other tournament in the country. The fact that an old barn like Joe Louis hosts the event, certainly adds to the allure of the GLI.
Bring Your Sunscreen
From the traditional to the non-traditional tournaments, UMASS travels to Estero, Florida (12/29 and 12/30) to play in the Florida College Classic with the likes of Cornell, Clarkson and Maine competing in the sunshine state. Hockey East has traditionally dominated in non conference games against their ECAC foes, but as esteemed UMAS blogger Fear The Triangle pointed out in his recent post, that is certainly not the case this year. UMass and Maine will be looking for a couple of W’s to help push Hockey East over the .500 mark against the ECAC.
UMass-Lowell, RPI, UConn and Army compete in the Toyota UConn classic in Storr’s, Connecticut. I can blatantly say I will not be tuning in (actually no one can tune in as it is not televised- THANK GOD!) and given the meager lineup of teams comepeting in Storr’s, my interest level is about a ZERO for this one.
To the Midwest We Go!
The NU Huskies will travel to Minneapolis to take part in the Mariucci Classic and will battle Princeton in the first round. This sets up a potentially exciting final that should feature host Minnesota if they dispose of Niagara in the first round. TCHB offers a preview of the Mariucci classic in his December 15th blog post.
Vermont for the Holidays!
The Catamount Cup in Burlington, VT features host UVM, Lake Superior State and Ferris State in what should be some decent action beginning on DEC 29th. UVM will of course be with star forward Connor Brickley who is participating in the WJC.
My 2nd Yawn – Ho’ Hum!!
In other Ho’Hum tilts, Merrimack travels to Hanover, NH to take on St. Lawrence in the Ledyard National Bank Classic on DEC 30th at 4PM EST. Dartmouth and Holy Cross are also participants in Hanover. Merrimack is looking to right the ship and get back to its wiining ways; hopefully Hanover, New Hampshire will bring the Warrior’s some XMAS Cheer.
In Non Tourney Action
In other non tournament related action, BU travels to the beatiful Compton Center in South Bend to take on Notre Dame on New Years eve in a game that will be televised on Versus. Notre Dame has already played host to BC and Northeastern earlier this year and now add the Terrier’s to the list of Boston Schools who have made the trek west to South Bend.