International Series: New Format for Top Division Playoffs - Junior Hockey News
Published: Wednesday, 30 May 2012
By: Matt Prosser
Ufa, Russia - Yesterday the
International Ice Hockey Federation announced a restructuring of the World U20
and U18 Junior Ice Hockey Championships. This will take effect at the upcoming
U18 WJHC but for the U20 WJHC will not be put into action until 2014 since the
structuring was already approved for this year.
To explain the changes, let's
first take a look at how the playoffs are currently run. If you have trouble
understanding it just by reading, I don't blame you. It might help to write out
a bracket as you follow along. Just as Divisions I and II, the Top Division is
split into two groups: A and B; however at this level each group has only five
teams instead of six. The tournament begins with a Round-Robin format where
each team plays each other within the group once.
Once all games have been
completed, the winners of the groups earn a bye through the Quarterfinals while
2A plays 3B and 2B plays 3A. At the same time 4A, 4B, 5A, and 5B face each
other in a Relegation Round where the four teams battle it out for the three
remaining spots in the Top Division for next season. The losing country gets
bumped down to DI.
In the Semifinals, B1 faces the
winner of A2 vs. B3 and A1 goes against the winner of B2 vs. A3. You can pretty
much figure out how the rest of this one goes: the winners play for the
Championship and the losers fight for third place.
The IIHF executed the move to
change all of this for the first time since 2003 during their annual congress
meeting held in Helsinki, Finland. The new format sees the elimination of the
first round bye and creates a much more conventional playoff. There will still
be at least 30 games in the tournament with the possibility of 31 (the current
number). The breakdown for this is much more simplistic.
There will still be two groups
of five teams; A and B playing in a Round-Robin exactly as before. The first
change occurs at the end of the Preliminaries where now the top four teams in
each group move onto the Quarterfinals and the two five seeds play a
best-of-three in a Relegation Round. Winner stays in the Top Division, loser
For those moving on, it turns
into a bracket tournament: Game 1, A1 vs. B4 | Game 2, B2 vs. A3 | Game 3, A2
vs. B3 | Game 4, B1 vs. A4. While the later rounds haven't been officially
announced yet for the U20 WJHC structure, it is safe to assume it will align
with that of the U18. If this is the case, the Semifinals will be the winners
of Game 1 and Game 2 facing one another and the winners of Game 3 and Game 4
will also go head-to-head. The rest is obvious as the winners play one another
for the Title and the losers go at it for third.
This new system will be met with
arguments both for and against it. Those in opposition have a fair case that it's
too open of a playoff if only two teams don't make it, but the bigger picture
here is that there will now be more games that have meaning. If given the
choice to attend a game between two teams that have no chance at winning the
title or a game where you get to see a team on its way to a World Championship,
the decision wouldn't be very difficult. The tournament needed a shakeup and
not only has one been made, but it's probably the most fair option out there as
Matt Prosser, Beat Writer for JuniorHockey.com and host
of the upcoming show: Junior Hockey Central. Founder of Fifty8 Productions and
freelance writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. Voice of California State
University, Sacramento Hockey and host of The Sports Cycle with Matt Prosser on
KSSU1580 Sacramento. For questions, writing ventures, or
advertising/sponsorships for the show please e-mail Matt@Fifty8productions.com.
Follow on Twitter @MattProsser58 or
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