The United States will look to become the first country in five years to win back-to-back gold medals when the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship takes center stage starting Dec. 26 in Malmo, Sweden.
Canada, the previous country to win consecutive gold medals (2005-09) will be one of nine other teams looking to squash the American dream of a repeat at the 11-day event, which concludes Jan. 5, 2014.
The Group A field, which consists of the United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany, will play preliminary-round games at 5,800-seat Malmo Isstadion.
"Playing on an Olympic rink is important for our guys," U.S. coach Don Lucia said. "It's not necessarily the same game on the big sheet versus the smaller sheet. Skating is going to be important, compete level is going to be extremely important. In that short tournament we have to get along and all fight for one thing, and that's USA Hockey."
Canada coach Brent Sutter returns after leading the country to undefeated gold medal-winning efforts in 2005 and 2006. He knows nothing will come easy for any of the 10 participating teams.
"There's so much parity with the junior hockey countries now," he said. "They've modeled themselves after the Canadians and they've caught up. Hockey fans in Canada don't give the other countries nearly enough credit. There's this perception that we're the only country that's great."
Canada hasn't won a gold medal at the WJC since 2009. At the 2013 WJC Canada finished fourth after a 6-5 overtime loss to Russia in the bronze-medal game. It marked the first time since 1998 that Canada failed to come home with a medal.
Here's a look at the teams in Group A (listed in order of 2013 WJC ranking):