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U.S. to open 2011 World Juniors against Finland

by Adam Kimelman
The U.S. team will open defense of its World Junior Championship gold medal against Finland on the day after Christmas when the 2011 WJC is played in Buffalo.

The Americans won their second-ever championship at the elite under-20 international tournament last month in Saskatoon, with a stunning 6-5 overtime defeat of Canada that ended the host country's five-year tournament win streak.

On Dec. 26, the U.S. team will face Finland, which finished fifth in Saskatoon, as part of round-robin play. Joining the U.S. team and Finland in Group A are Switzerland, last year's surprising fourth-place finisher; Slovakia, which finished eighth; and Germany, which moved up from Division I. Group B will consist of Canada; Russia, which finished a disappointing sixth; bronze-medalist Sweden; Czech Republic, which finished seventh; and Norway, which was promoted Division I.

Other games for the Americans in the preliminary round: Dec. 28 vs. Slovakia; Dec. 30 vs. Germany; Dec. 31 vs. Switzerland.

Canada will open its WJC run with a game against Russia on Dec. 26, followed by matches with the Czech Republic (Dec. 28); Norway (Dec. 29); and Sweden (Dec. 31).

All Team USA and Canada games will be played at HSBC Arena, home of the Buffalo Sabres. Dwyer Arena, home of the Ontario Hockey League's Niagara IceDogs, will be the secondary venue.

The 2011 WJC opens Dec. 26, with the gold-medal game slated for Jan. 5, 2011.
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