Canada’s quest to retain the World Junior Ice Hockey Championship they won in the USA a year ago enters the third of four group games on Saturday 29 December, when the Czech Republic provide the opposition at the Rogers Arena.
The group schedule has, on paper at least, given Canada a step up in the quality of the opposition they face at every game, with the opening game against Denmark seen as the easiest, followed by the second game against Switzerland.
The Czechs should provide a sterner test than either of those two and will be good preparation for what looks to be the Canucks’ toughest group game against Russia on New Year’s Eve.
Was this beauty backhand by @HockeyCanada's Maxime Comtois (@comtois20) the best play of the 2018 #WorldJuniors?— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 21, 2018
Last chance to vote for your chance to win a pair of @BauerHockey skates! https://t.co/nij2nEyu7N pic.twitter.com/6Xq6HeDSgo
The teams met at the semi-finals stage of the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships 2017-18 with Canada, despite going a goal down early on, eventually running out easy 7-2 winners at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo.
As a point of reference for 2018 World Junior Ice Hockey predictions on this game, both teams have very recently been in pre-tournament friendly action against the Slovakia U20 team. On Wednesday 19 December, the Czechs were taken to penalties before claiming the win against their local rivals after the game had finished as a 1-1 draw after OT.
Two days later Canada faced the Slovakians and won 6-1. That would suggest that there’s still a sizeable gulf in class between the Canadians and the Czechs.
Both teams will also have played Denmark in their group games prior to this encounter, which will provide a more competitive reference, albeit against the team deemed to be the weakest in Group A.
The Money Line betting odds on a Canada victory in this game won’t be terribly appealing, so the market to keep an eye on is likely to be the Puck Line.
Pick: Puck Line – Canada