Canada beat the Czech Republic in overtime to become world junior champions again

Canada’s Dylan Günther scores the winning goal as he beats Czech goaltender Thomas Suhanekin in overtime of the World Junior Ice Hockey Championship gold medal match in Halifax. Canada won 3-2 on January 5, 2023.Darren Calabrese / The Canadian Press

Dylan Gunther didn’t think his moment would ever come.

The same goes for Shane Wright.

Now they have a gold medal – and a memory for life.

Günther scored his second goal of the night at 6:22 of overtime as the hosts survived a crushing 2-0 lead in the third period to beat the Czech Republic 3-2 in a dramatic final of the Ice Hockey World Championship on Thursday.

“It means everything,” said the 19-year-old, who also added an assist. “You never know when the opportunity to win will come again.

“To be here with this team and play in front of these fans and in general this whole situation could not have ended better.”

The Arizona Coyotes forward received a pass from Joshua Roy and scored his seventh goal in seven games in a 2-on-1 to give his country its 20th men’s under-20 title.

“I remember not immediately taking off my gloves,” said Gunther, a native of Edmonton. “Almost forgot it was overtime, do or die.”

Wright, on his 19th birthday, had a different goal for Canada. Tomas Milic made 24 saves.

Gunther and Wright were both on Team Canada for the 2022 World Junior Championships, which was postponed last year due to COVID-19, and did not take part in the reimagined August event.

“The greatest feeling in the world,” Wright said, clutching the trophy. “Impossible to be more proud of these guys, impossible to be more proud of this band.

– Haven’t even got it yet.

Canadian Connor Bedard carries the IIHF championship trophy after the gold medal game.Darren Calabrese / The Canadian Press

Canada became the first team to repeat since the country won five consecutive gold medals between 2005 and 2009 after tournament MVP Connor Bedard and seven other returnees also headlined that pandemic-postponed summer tournament in Edmonton.

“We are very happy that the dream has come true,” said the 17-year-old phenom. “To get him again is incredible.”

Jiri Kulich and Jakub Kos answered for the Czech Republic. Thomas Suchanek saved 35 shots.

The Czechs beat a scattered Canada for the first time in 3,285 days when they won a then stunning 5-2 win on December 26 to reach the final for the first time since their only gold medal in 2000 and 2001.

“Just their tenacity,” Canada head coach Dennis Williams said of what he will remember in his group. “From the very beginning, there was a lot of pressure on them. It would have been easy to just pack it up, especially after that first game.

“I love how they came to the rink every day, hungry, wanting more.”

The Czech Republic – the country commonly known as the Czech Republic – finished fourth in the summer and won its first medal since 2005. The United States scored a wild 8-7 overtime victory over Sweden to take bronze.

Bedard, the Canadian maestro who rewrote page after page of both the tournament and national record books in Halifax with 23 points, was dropped from the scoresheet on Thursday.

It didn’t matter.

“Still, by far, the MVP of the tournament,” Wright said. “Certainly the best player of the tournament.”

The Burlington, Ontario native then added with a smirk about the prospective first pick in the NHL Draft, “He’s got a pretty good hockey future.”

Canada seemed to be moving towards that 20th gold midway through the third before the plucky Czechs, who had qualified for the final thanks to a dramatic semi-final win over Sweden, scored twice in 54 seconds.

“Don’t think that I or anyone else had doubts,” said Milic, a product of Coquitlam, British Columbia. “We just stuck to our game plan.”

Both teams had 3-on-3 overtime chances before Gunther and Roy won.

“I was already trying to get over the bench when they got the puck,” Bedard said. “A good duo goes down.”

The Czechs came close to taking the lead at the stunning Scotiabank Center in the first period when Gabriel Sturk hit the bar.

Unhappy with the Czech Republic’s boisterous celebration after the Boxing Day victory, the Canadians were successful in their first powerplay game.

Gunther, one of three NHL players loaned to the national team to play in the tournament with Wright and Brandt Clark, blew up the shooting bar at 12:41 p.m. before the familiar tune of “Heave Away” by The Fables blared. the skating rink is washed in red and white.

Milic, who made 43 saves in a 6-2 semi-final win over the Americans, was once again superb at the end of the period.

Kedan Banker, Zak Ostapchuk and Logan Stankoven had separate one-on-one chances, which Suhanek stopped before Wright landed.

The No. 4 draft pick by the Seattle Kraken last summer, who went up and down the tournament, grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and fought off a defenseman before flanking two more and covering a backhand up the short side. for his fourth at 4:35.

“I really don’t know what happened there,” Wright joked. “It seems that (Bedard) has been passed on to me.

“More like a game he would play.”

Wright watched every World Junior Championship final on his birthday growing up, and after his goal, the crowd responded with “Happy Birthday” to the Canadian captain.

He almost scored midway through the third 2-on-1 match with a chance that could have provided him, but the Czechs finally came on the board with 7:30 left in regulation when Kulich scored a goal.

Jakub Kos equalized to stun the Canadians and the guerrilla crowd after just 54 seconds.

Then Günther inscribed his name in the world youth literature.

Bedard set many records in Primorye. He also did not want to discuss his personal achievements after the game.

“Winner,” Gunther said. “He is ready to do whatever it takes to win. A grandiose tournament, a historical tournament.

“The pleasure of playing with him and the opportunity to watch him every day.”

The talent from North Vancouver, British Columbia now holds the national record with 31 points and 14 goals at the World Junior Championships.

Bedard set a new mark for most points by a Canadian in a single tournament with 23, holds the national record with 14 assists in a single tournament, and has scored the most points by a player aged 18 and under.

Bedard’s 18 all-time assists is one short of the national mark while falling short of a point to place second among players from any country in the tournament.

“Incredible,” Wright said. “I’m running out of things to say about how incredible his performance has been throughout the tournament.”

Bedard will soon take to the bigger stage with even brighter lights in the pros and will not forget this band.

“My brothers,” he said. “We are going to do this together. We will cherish this incredible achievement years from now.

“We’ll look back and remember every guy.”

With those gold medals hanging from their necks.


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