April 15 - Sochi 2014's two Olympic Park ice arenas, the Bolshoy Ice Dome and Shayba Arena, will host their first Olympic international test event this week as the venues stage the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Under-18 World Championship.
Organised in collaboration with the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia (IHFR), the event will welcome teams from Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States when it gets underway on Thursday (April 18).
The US are the favourites having won the last four World Championships, however Russia will be attempting to break the hold of the Americans as the competition hosts and three-time winner of the event.
Two-time world champions Canada and Finland are also leading medal candidates.
The IHFR's executive director Valery Fesyuk, co-chairman of the Under-18 World Championship Organising Committee, explained that they are "ready to take this Championship to the highest world level" thanks to the two Sochi 2014 ice hockey venues.
"Both arenas are stunningly beautiful and designed for ice hockey," he said.
"Bolshoy is a palace for more festive and ceremonial events, such as the opening, closing ceremonies and the final games.
"Shayba is technically focused only on ice hockey, it is quite cosy and satisfies all of the competition needs.
"Young talents from all the leading countries will test the ice, and, of course, we would like to see it to be lucky.
"There will be certain pressure on the Russian guys, who will be playing at home in front of their fans.
"The climax of the year will take place in August, when there will be a pre-Olympic meeting of the Russian national team so that they can check out their locker room, feel the ice and play a game against Sweden.
"I think that the Bolshoy Ice Dome is fully prepared for this, and meets all requirements."
During the preliminary stage of the tournament, the teams will be divided into two groups of five and after a series of round robin games played between April 18 and 23, the four best teams from each group advance to the playoff round.
The teams that finish in fifth place in the groups enter a round to avoid relegation from the World Championship's top division.
The quarterfinals are due to be held on April 25 with the semi-finals the following day and the final on April 28.
The losing semi-finalists will compete for the bronze medal.
"For its 15th edition, the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Under-18 World Championship will take place at the site of the next Winter Games, giving hockey fans a chance to get their first look at the wonderful new Olympic arenas that will be christened with this tournament," IIHF President René Fasel, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said.
"The lucky teams competing in the tournament this year will be among the first to play in the Olympic venues, including the 12,000-capacity Bolshoy Ice Dome, which will host the U18 final and next year the Olympic gold medal game."
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