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World Junior Championship canceled due to COVID-19

The IIHF called off the under-20 men's hockey tournament Wednesday afternoon.

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World Junior Championship logo

Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven hoped to join Jonathan Toews as the only players in UND hockey history to win two gold medals at the World Junior Championship.

But they won't get a shot.

The IIHF canceled the World Juniors four days into the under-20 event because of COVID-19 positive tests on three teams.

USA had to forfeit its game against Switzerland on Tuesday due to two positive COVID-19 tests. On Wednesday, Czechia and Russia both had to forfeit games due to COVID-19 positives.

After the Russian forfeit, the IIHF canceled the entire event, which was scheduled to conclude Jan. 5 in Edmonton.

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The IIHF said it followed a recommendation by the tournament COVID-19 Medical Group and the IIHF Medical Committee to cancel it.

"Together with the teams, we came into this event with full confidence in the COVID-19 protocols put in place by the IIHF, the LOC, Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada," IIHF President Luc Tardif said. "The ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant forced us to readjust our protocols almost immediately upon arrival to attempt to stay ahead of any potential spread. This included daily testing and the team quarantine requirement when positive cases were confirmed.

"We owed it to the participating teams to do our best to create the conditions necessary for this event to work. Unfortunately, this was not enough. We now have to take some time and focus on getting all players and team staff back home safely."

The U.S. played just one game at the World Juniors — a 3-2 victory over Slovakia in Red Deer, Alberta.

Sanderson, who was the team captain, and Kleven are now expected to return to Grand Forks.

UND plays an exhibition game Saturday against the U.S. Under-18 Team. It's unclear whether the sophomore defensemen will play in that game. UND's next regular season games are Jan. 7-8 against Cornell.

Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and CEO Tom Renney released a joint statement: "Hockey Canada has worked tirelessly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure it would be equipped to host world-class, international events in a safe and healthy environment. Despite our best efforts, and continually adapting and strengthening protocols, we have unfortunately fallen short of our goal of completing the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship and handing out medals on Jan. 5 due to the challenges of the current COVID-19 landscape.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have always made the health and safety of event participants and the community at large a priority, and given the news that we have encountered positive cases within the World Juniors environment, we understand and support the decision to cancel the remainder of the event. Although we know this is the right decision, we sympathize with all participants who have earned the opportunity to represent their countries on the world stage and that will not be able to realize that dream in its entirety."

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