North America showdown between USA and Canada
by Niklas Aßfalg/Christian Bellinger
In the playoffs of the 2020 IIHF Esports Fan Championship, two ice hockey giants USA and Canada will clash in what should be a highlight of the Round of 16 stage.
Over the past 100 years, both nations have combined for 69 World Championship medals and 27 medals at Winter Olympics. The rivalry began at the first Olympic ice hockey tournament in 1920, when "The Great White North" defeated its southern neighbour in the final. Since then the paths of the two hockey heavyweights have crossed again and again in important matches. In 1960, the Americans took revenge and won the gold medal in the final against Canada. The most recent duel dates back to the 2019 World Championship, with Canada winning 3:0 at the end of the group stage. And now, a new stage is set for this rivalry to continue with the first-ever IIHF Esports Fan Championship .
The USA and Canada will meet directly in the first playoff round after the respective national qualifying rounds. Both opponents are heavies in the world of EA SPORTS™' NHL™ 20: In the Canadian qualifiers Joshua 'Joshfearless13' D'Eri and Karl 'hswertha23' Caslib prevailed. 'Joshfearless13' has already caused a stir at NHL™ Gaming World Championship on several occasions, and in 2018 he won the 'Blackhawks' online tournament on the PlayStation 4. Caslib, on the other hand, won the 2019 Canadian Regional Final on his way to the Gaming World Championship, and in the first qualifying round of the Esports Fan Championship, he took out Carson 'CoreyPerry1' Bellaire 1:0 - the top-ranked player in the 2020 GWC Regional Qualifiers.
On the other side, the duo for the main round is John 'johnwayne90' Casagranda and Tyler 'Daddy Padre' Stewart. Casagranda is one of the world's top digital hockey players, having qualified for the finals of the NHL™ Gaming World Championship in 2020 as fourth of the US qualifiers. He also beat David 'JrPens' Roebuck in the IIHF qualifying finals, who had left him behind in the GWC qualifiers. 'Daddy Padre' was also up against 'JrPens', beating him 1:0 in the first qualifying round. In the final, Stewart was even up against Matthew 'TSCCookie' Gutkoski, the virtual world champion of 2019 - the 3:1 win should make the competition look respectable.
The quality of these players on the U.S and Canadian sides means we should see some fireworks in this Round of 16 matchup. Two games will be played on the Xbox One and two on the PlayStation 4, with the results of the four individual games being added to the overall result. The puck drop will take place at 7pm (UTC) and can be followed on the official IIHF Twitch channel, the quarterfinal opponent of Slovakia or Latvia will be determined.