BONNYVILLE, Alta. – The World Junior A Challenge – a showcase of Canadian and international Junior A talent – will feature a new look for 2018 when Bonnyville, Alta., welcomes five teams to the R.J. Lalonde Arena this year, now scheduled for Dec. 9-16.
The 2018 World Junior A Challenge represents a partnership between Hockey Canada, the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), Hockey Alberta, NHL Central Scouting, and the local host committee. Unlike previous years, two Canadian teams – Team Canada East and Team Canada West – will compete against three international entries, down from the four international teams that traditionally participate. The Czech Republic, Russia, and the United States will round out the competition at this year’s event.
To accommodate the new five-team format, event dates have been adjusted and the full schedule has been announced. The tournament will begin with two rivalry match-ups on Sunday, Dec. 9, with Team Canada East taking on Russia at 2 p.m. MT, followed by Team Canada West facing off against the United States in a rematch of the 2017 gold medal game at 7 p.m. MT. The Czech Republic will make its 2018 World Junior A Challenge debut the following day, when it meets Russia at 2 p.m. MT. Teams will wrap up preliminary-round play on Friday, Dec. 14 before four teams advance to the semifinals on Saturday, Dec. 15, with games slated for 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. MT. The 2018 WJAC will conclude with bronze- and gold-medal games being played on Sunday, Dec. 16, with times to be determined.
“The new five-team format provides teams the opportunity to play one game against each entry at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, and gives fans the opportunity to watch 14 games of exciting hockey between some of the world’s top hockey nations,” said Dean McIntosh, Hockey Canada’s vice-president of events and properties. “Unlike in previous years, fans are guaranteed to see Canada East and Canada West match-up against each other and both Canadian teams take on their biggest rivals in Russia and the United States. We’re excited for fans to experience the entertainment value of the new schedule and the level of competition that will be on display at this year’s World Junior A Challenge.”
A slate of pre-tournament games will be featured before the 2018 World Junior A Challenge on Friday, Dec. 7, including a match-up between Russia and Team Canada West at the New Horizons Centre in Frog Lake, Alta. The game, which will be played at 5 p.m. MT, marks the first time a World Junior A Challenge pre-tournament game will be hosted in a First Nations community. Cold Lake, Alta., will also host a pre-tournament game, welcoming Team Canada East and the United States at the Energy Centre at 7 p.m. MT. Pre-tournament action will wrap up with the Bonnyville Pontiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League squaring off against the Czech Republic at the R.J. Lalonde Arena, also at 7 p.m. MT.
“We’re pleased to once again bring this great event to our town for 2018, and to work with the surrounding communities of Cold Lake and Frog Lake to provide local hockey fans with two great exhibition games before the tournament starts in Bonnyville,” said Robb Hunter, co-chair of the local host committee. “We’re excited for the opportunity to host the 2018 World Junior A Challenge after the success of the event in 2016, and to give our fans the opportunity to watch our very own Bonnyville Pontiacs take on the Czech Republic.”
A limited number of full-event ticket packages are still available at the early-bird price of $199 plus fees at HockeyCanada.ca/Tickets. Bonnyville Pontiacs season-ticket holders can also take advantage of special pricing by purchasing a full-event package for $149 plus fees. Both early-bird and season-ticket holder prices are available until the Pontiacs play their home opener on Friday, Sept. 21, with full-event ticket prices increasing to $225 plus fees beginning Sept. 22. Single-game tickets for the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, including tickets to the pre-tournament games, will be released closer to the event.
Since the event’s inception in 2006, more than 230 NHL draft picks have played in the tournament, including 36 first-round selections. Of the 12 gold-medal games at the World Junior A Challenge, 10 have featured at least one Canadian team. Team Canada West has captured gold five times (2006, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2017), silver three times (2008, 2009, 2012), and bronze once (2013). Team Canada East has won a medal six times, taking home silver five times (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2016) and bronze once (2008).
For more information on the 2018 World Junior A Challenge, please visit HockeyCanada.ca.