By David Gold

Taylor Chase_Vancouver.gettyimagesMarch 22 - The top eight teams in the world are on their way to Hamar in Norway for the 2012 Ice Sledge Hockey A Pool World Championships, which begin on Saturday (March 24).

The competition begins with an Opening Ceremony at 18:00 CET prior to Estonia's clash with the United States, and runs until April 1.

The tournament begins with two groups – the first including the United States, Japan, Czech Republic and Estonia, the second Norway, Canada, Italy and South Korea.

Following the group stage teams progress to the playoff round, which gets underway on March 29.

The US are the reigning champions having defeated Norway at the last tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic in 2009.

Two times champions Canada picked up bronze during that tournament and the North American heavyweights will be among the favourites once more.

Japan will also be a dark horse after their silver medal at the last Winter Paralympics in Vancouver two years' ago.

"The Japanese, you can never look by them," US forward Brad Emmerson said.

"They're a real quick team.

"They've got some skill on that squad, and they've been getting better the last couple of years.

"Those two teams right there, along with Canada, are the ones to watch."

Norway's clash with Canada will be the stand out tie of the group stage on March 28, and the Scandinavian country's Princess Martha Louise will be at the game, held at the Olympic Amphitheatre.

That venue, which hosted skating and figure skating at the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics, will stage every match.

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