United States forfeits World Juniors game vs. Switzerland due to two positive COVID-19 tests

United States goalie Drew Commesso (29) makes the save on Finland's Roni Karvinen (34) as Ian Moore (2) defends during first period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship exhibition action in Edmonton on Thursday, December 23, 2021. (Jason Franson/CP)

EDMONTON — Defending champion United States forfeited Tuesday’s game against Switzerland at the world junior men’s hockey championship because two players tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

The American team was placed in a mandated quarantine. The game was scheduled to be played Tuesday afternoon in Red Deer, which is co-hosting the 2022 men’s under-20 tournament with Edmonton.

The game will be recorded as a 1-0 win for Switzerland by forfeit in accordance with the rules, International Ice Hockey Federation said in a statement.

“We’re extremely disappointed, especially for our players,” U.S. junior team general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said in a statement.

“We’re operating in an ever-changing landscape and that’s very challenging.

“We’ve followed the tournament protocol from the outset and will continue to do everything we can to ensure our players have the opportunity to compete at the world junior championship.”

The U.S. team’s quarantine status will be evaluated later to determine whether it can compete in its next preliminary round game against Sweden on Wednesday, the IIHF said.

“Hope your players are doing OK and your team will be able to leave quarantine soon, @usahockey,” the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation posted on Twitter.

The Swiss team held a practice Tuesday in the absence of a game.

The Americans opened Pool B in Red Deer with a 3-2 win over Slovakia. The Swiss were without captain Simon Knak, who tested positive for COVID, in a 4-2 loss to Russia in their first game.

The top four teams in each pool advance to Sunday’s quarterfinal round followed by semifinals Jan. 4 and medal games Jan. 5.

While no games are scheduled for Saturday, a makeup game can’t be played that day because the Swiss could end up playing games three straight days. That is against IIHF sport regulations, an IIHF spokesman told The Canadian Press.

“There are also other logistical and broadcasting conflicts that do not allow us to be very flexible with moving games to new dates,” Adam Steiss said in an email.

Canada versus Austria in Pool A in Edmonton was the only other game on Tuesday’s schedule.

Meanwhile, two women’s hockey games in Alberta between Canada and the United States were cancelled Tuesday because several Canadian players and staff were in COVID protocol.

The Canadian and American women were to meet Jan. 3 in Edmonton’s Rogers Place during the junior men’s championship and again Jan. 6 in Red Deer.

The U.S. defeated Canada 2-0 in the final of the 2021 junior men’s tournament in Edmonton. The 2022 roster features six returning players from that team.

Teams that travelled to Canada quarantined for two days after their Dec. 15 arrival with just over 5,800 tests conducted on 462 players, staff, and game officials before the tournament opened Sunday, according to the IIHF.

One Finnish player tested positive and was placed into isolation with no others on the team affected. Two game officials were isolated after testing positive during quarantine.

Knak testing positive caused the cancellation of a Swiss-Czechia pre-tournament game. One Austrian player testing positive had that team in quarantine until contact tracing was completed and the team was released to play its first game against Finland on Monday.

Germany was minus a third of its team to start the 2021 world under-20 championship in Edmonton but was able to play games because those players who didn’t test positive had cleared a 10-day quarantine after arriving in Canada.

The IIHF cancelled six men’s and women’s tournaments in January, including the women’s under-18 world championship a second straight year, because of concerns over COVID-19.

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