The United States and Canada won't wait long to renew their rivalry at the IIHF World Junior Championship. They will play on the first day of Group B round-robin action in the 2020 WJC at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Thursday (1 p.m. ET; NHLN).
"We didn't play them last year (at the 2019 WJC) and I think for both teams, especially us, this is a real benchmark game," said U.S. National Junior Team general manager John Vanbiesbrouck. "To play Canada right out of the gate is something that's going to be special on what is known as Boxing Day in Canada ... no pun intended."
The United States and Canada have combined for four of the past seven World Junior Championship first-place finishes (U.S. in 2013, 2017; Canada in 2015, 2018).
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"It's going to be a heavy game, it's going to be a game that I think is going to be fun to watch because of the excitement of the tournament, but I also think it's going to be a barometer game," Vanbiesbrouck said. "You're really going to be able to tell a lot from that first game."
The United States and Canada will compete in Group B with Russia, Czech Republic and Germany, with all games at Ostravar Arena.
Defenseman Jamie Drysdale, one of five Canada players eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, said he's ecstatic to have an opportunity to play against the United States.
"I think it would be unbelievable," he said. "As a kid, Canada vs. U.S. is what comes to mind when you think international competition, so it would be awesome to be a part of that."
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The United States has won four straight games against Canada at the WJC, although Canada leads the series, 29-3-3-8 (W-OTW-OTL-L) with three ties in 46 games.
"Canada and the U.S. is a rivalry I've followed my whole life," said Canada forward Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres). "Every time you watched the World Juniors growing up, it was always a game everybody got pumped up for. If I'm fortunate enough to be a part of that game, it's going to be super exciting, but we'll have to treat it as another game, not think about the rivalry aspect too much but just go out there, play our game and get it done."
Defenseman Ty Smith (New Jersey Devils), one of four players returning for Canada from 2019, said playing the United States in the opener is a great way to kick off the tournament.
"It should be a lot of fun," Smith said. "The U.S. always has a good team. If I get the opportunity to play in that game I'd be thrilled, and it would be a ton of fun to compete with a team like that."
U.S. forward Cole Caufield, selected by the Montreal Canadiens with the No. 15 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, said helping his country to a win against Canada would be a great way to start the tournament. Caufield leads NCAA Division I freshmen in goals (12) and points (20) in his first season at the University of Wisconsin, and all college players with 79 shots on goal.
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"If you're not excited for that game, I don't know why you should even be playing," Caufield said. "I'm excited to be a part of that and hopefully we can get off to a good start."
The last game between the U.S. and Canada in the tournament took place outdoors in round-round play of the 2018 WJC at New Era Field in Buffalo, a 4-3 shootout win by the United States on Dec. 29, 2017.
"It's such a good rivalry and it'll be a great test for us and I'm sure we'll be ready," U.S. center John Beecher (Boston Bruins) said. "I think playing this game early can give you a lot of momentum right off the bat and that'd be a huge win for us. Then you're just kind of rolling after that, so it'll be an emotional game and great way to get started."
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