Every year, more than 100 Hockey players from 10 countries compete and play in an attempt to bring home a gold medal for their country in the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The 2021 World Juniors saw the U.S. bring home their fifth WJC (World Junior Championship) gold medal. Skills continue to increase and with the high compete level, the 2022 tournament, which will be held in August, will tell us which country really turns out the best up-and-coming hockey players.
In one way or another, COVID has affected just about everybody, and for these 20-year-old or younger hockey players, it almost crushed their dreams to play for their country. The 2022 WJC were set to begin on December 26, 2021 as Team Austria and Team Switzerland faced off first. Only nine games were able to take place because on December 29, 2021, after several game days had been either canceled or declared forfeits due to an uprising in COVID-19 cases, the IIHF announced that the tournament had been canceled.
The cancellation of World Juniors sent an obvious shock wave throughout the countries set to compete as the intense action just began to take off. In fact, prior to the cancellation, 16-year-old underage Connor Bedard of Team Canada became the youngest player to score four goals in a WJC game, leading his team to an 11-2 win over Team Austria. Only five Canadians in World Juniors history have recorded four goals in a single game, including Mario Lemieux in 1983 and Simon Gagne in 1999. The fact that Bedard is playing in the World Juniors as a 16- year-old is an impressive feat in itself. Only seven 16-year-olds have been named to Team Canada’s junior team including players such as Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby.
The tournament will be held in Alberta, Canada, and take place August 9 through August 20, 2022. Cole Perfetti, Connor Bedard, Mason McTavish and Owen Power began paving the way for Team Canada leading the tournament in points, combining for 21 in just two games. Does the U.S. have what it takes to shut down a strong Team Canada? Or will Connor Bedard continue to dominate and bring home a gold medal for the Great North?