With the preliminary round of the IIHF World Junior Championship wrapped up, teams and fans have a break today as they prepare for the playoffs. The final day of the preliminaries was full of exciting games, with Russia securing a playoff position with an 8-3 win over the Czech Republic at Dwyer Arena, Finland blanking Slovakia 6-0, and Team USA beating Switzerland 2-1.
But the most exciting game of the night, and perhaps so far in the entire tournament, was Sweden's 6-5 shootout victory over Canada. Both teams battled back and forth in the hard hitting, fast paced game, with the decision coming down to a shootout. Team Canada fans who filled the arena left shocked and disappointed, but by the time the USA-Switzerland game was about to go underway, the Canadian fans still left in the lodge were in high spirits and were looking forward to the playoffs.
Canadian fans after Canada's loss to Sweden.
Inside the arena, fans getting ready to watch Team USA and Switzerland were given hats and noisemakers at the door to celebrate the New Year. The hallways were filled with people using their noisemakers, cheering, and the U-S-A chant. The energy from the previous Canada-Sweden game seemed to linger in the crowd as fans were eagerly awaiting puck drop.
I caught up with Seymour Knox IV and his sons prior to the game and I chatted with him for a bit about the tournament. Seymour's father, Seymour Knox III and uncle Northrup Knox were the first owners of the Buffalo Sabres and the ones responsible for bringing an NHL team to Buffalo. Seymour was at the Canada-Sweden game and was looking forward to the USA-Switzerland game.
Seymour Knox and his family just before the USA-Switzerland game.
I spoke to Seymour earlier, and he told me about a Russian reporter named Maria from Moscow who is in town to cover Team Russia and the rest of the tournament. I met up with Maria at the hotel she is staying at and I took her out to lunch and we got to discuss our experience covering the tournament. It was very interesting to get the perspective of the same tournament that I'm covering from someone from out of the country. Maria told me that she is attending tonight's Buffalo Sabres game against the Boston Bruins and she was very excited to be attending her first NHL game. Maria gets to cover the KHL in Russia and she gets to interview Russian NHL players like Ovechkin and Kovalchuk, but she has never had the chance to watch an NHL game in person. She was also hoping to get a chance to interview Sabres star goaltender, Ryan Miller, who is also a big star over in Russia. Maria told me that interviewing Miller would be a big deal for the newspaper that she writes for because it's rare for her newspaper to interview NHL players who aren't Russian.
Because of today's break, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery has decided to open today so fans can view the Stanley Cup and other Hall of Fame trophies. The Cup was supposed to only be here January 2nd and 3rd, but today's unscheduled opening of the art gallery will give fans extra time to view the Cup. For the fans who don't have the chance to view the Cup when it's at its home at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, today would be the perfect chance to see the Cup up close!