2016 World Juniors Report (Quarter-Finals)

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The World Junior tournament is one of the more interesting in international hockey as it is truly the first major international tournament in which these players participate.

There are plenty of other tournaments that they play in but none have the same reach.

The U18 tournament and Ivan Hlinka are often mentioned but rarely watched, aside from the extreme international hockey fans.

The Juniors is the first tournament where entire countries are watching and players are expected to perform in front of tremendous pressure.

That pressure though is one of the most interesting parts of the tournament every year as the pressure varies dramatically between teams.

Some teams come into the tournament simply looking to at least take a point in the tournament even if it comes through an overtime loss.

Other teams are just looking to stay in the top tier and avoid relegation while even more just try to avoid the relegation series at all.

For the select few though the pressure they feel is to finish with a medal as anything else is considered a disastrous tournament.

Then there is Canada where the pressure is at a completely different level than anywhere else in the world.

No country takes the World Juniors more seriously than Canada even Canada’s biggest rival, the Russians, don’t care as much if they win or lose.

Every year of the tournament the Canadians are expected not only to take home a medal but to win gold.

Anything less for Team Canada is a failure and finishing outside of the medals is a disaster.

It can put tremendous pressure on the team and the young players that represent their country.

That pressure will never be matched by any other country but there are plenty of other countries that look for a medal above all.

For Russia it is not a tournament that is taken too seriously by many but they are still expected to win.

They are constantly one of the best teams in the tournament and a few years without a medal could send the country into a thinking mode about the state of their game.

The Americans are much the same as hockey is not the biggest sport and the Juniors are far from the biggest tournament.hockey-sidebar

In the USA though winners are celebrated no matter what sport they play or tournament they win and expectations continue to get bigger for the American team after beginning to compete.

The Swedes and Finns might be right behind Canada in terms of how much they care with more focus in both of those countries.

This year Finland had some extra pressure with the tournament in Helsinki and a home crowd backing them.

The Swedes gain a little extra pressure with the tournament right next door and plenty of Swedish fans making the trip.

All five of these teams have constantly been considered the best teams in the tournament and are usually the best international teams in every tournament.

They all entered the quarter-finals with the idea that they will be playing for a medal, preferably gold, at the end of the tournament.

The Russians were one of the better teams in the tournament but they struggled in their quarter-final having to score a last second goal to tie the game and winning in overtime against the Danes.

It was a big scare but the Russians got out of it and avoided what would have been a major upset.

The Swedes were steady as usual despite facing the Slovakians who love to upset big teams as they took a 6-0 win and proved that they earned the top spot in their group for a reason.

The Americans followed suit with a convincing 6-0 win over the Czech Republic who were getting a great performance from their goaltender that could have been a recipe for an upset.

It wasn’t to be though as the Americans showed their offensive power as they head to the semi-finals.

With five big expectation teams and only four games there was sure to be one team falling far short of their expectations and that all came down to the match-up between Finland and Canada.

The game was a tight one with the Canadians going up early only to see the Finns fight back. Eventually the Finnish attack broke through and took the lead and despite the fight by Canada.

The Finns got the win in front of their home crowd while the Canadians were sent home before the semi-finals for the first time since 1998.

In Finland it is a great tournament for a young team but for Canada it might be considered a disaster as one of the favourite tournaments every year was over early and Canada didn’t even play for a medal.

The pressure continues now in the semi-finals where rivals face-off as the building might need reinforcements when Sweden and Finland fight it out while old rivals USA and Russia look for a berth in the gold medal game.

For all of these teams there will be a medal on the line at some point but getting that guarantee of at least a silver is what everyone is looking for as the tournament closes out.

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