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What a Difference...

Lost in the shadow of the World Junior tournament, where incidentally, the US is off to a great start, undefeated and about to play Canada for a shot at the gold medal, is another international hockey event; the World U17 Hockey Challenge.

There was one particular match-up in the tournament that drew my attention, and that was the game between the United States and Russia. The game was a rematch from the championship game from last November's Four Nations Cup, in which the Russians won 2-1, and was marred by an ugly fight at the end of the game. You may also remember from that game, the Russians, who hosted that event, received 12 powerplays, scoring on two them, while the US only received 2 powerplays.

The game played on neutral soil had quite a different result. The US had a dominating 6-2 victory over the Russians. The US jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and was able to coast to victory.

In what I'm sure was a coincidence, the penalties were also markedly different from the first meeting. The US committed 13 penalties, but the Russians were found guilty of infractions 16 times.

For what it's worth, 29 penalties may seem like a lot, but referee Ben Buxton also called 27 penalties in a game between Finland and Quebec earlier in the tournament, though three of those penalties were handed out when Quebec coach Danny Dupont requested stick measurements on Finnish players(he was right on two of them).

The US finished 3-1-0 in preliminary round play, and earned a spot in the semifinals where they will play either Finland or Canada Pacific. The US team last to Canada Pacific in a shootout in an exhibition game prior to the tournament.