HALIFAX The red and white is again draped in gold.
Dylan Guenther scored in overtime, converting a pass from Joshua Roy as Canada beat the Czechs 3-2 in the gold-medal game at the world junior hockey championship and sent the Scotiabank Centre crowd into a frenzy.
It was Guenther’s second goal of the game. Captain Shane Wright also scored in the edge-of-your seat, hard-fought, close-checking battle that still had plenty of scoring chances and great saves, making a fitting final for a world championship.
It was the 20th gold medal for Canada in the tournament’s history and the first time Canada has successfully defended gold since a run of five in a row ended in 2009.
Wright scored in the second period, on his 19th birthday, getting the frenzied crowd at the Scotiabank Centre to sing him a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” It gave Canada a lead it seemed to be comfortable playing with until Jiri Kulich and Jakub Holl scored 54 seconds apart late in the third to set up overtime.
Tournament star Connor Bedard was held without a point, but still led the tournament in goals (nine), assists (13) and points (21) and finished holding or tying a number of Canadian and tournament offensive records, passing the likes of Eric Lindros and Pavel Bure in the process. He was named tournament MVP.
Thomas Milic put in another superior effort in net for Canada.
After Bedard was named MVP, the Canadians received their medals, and some, like Wright, were draped in Canadian flags. The players and crowd sang a hearty rendition of “O Canada.” Then, the party was on, with “Heave Away,” the goal song, “Hey Baby” and “We Are The Champions” blaring in the arena. No one — fans or players—seemed to want to leave.
The Czechs earned a medal for the first time since winning bronze in 2005. It was their first silver since the breakup of Czechoslovakia (dissolved on Dec. 31, 1992).
Canada was out for revenge as well, after Czechia humbled them 5-2 in the opener. Revenge, it turns out, was best served gold.
The game took a while to get going, with both teams feeling each other out. There was no score, and each team only had a shot each halfway through the opening period. There were chances. Bedard had a goal disallowed because he had been offside. And moments later Czech Jaroslav Chmelar hit the crossbar on a rush.
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Canada finally scored, a power-play goal, with Guenther’s one-timer beating Tomas Suchanek and Canada dominating the second half of the period. The fans got to chant “Milic” after he stopped Martin Rysavy on a breakaway late in the period to preserve the lead.
Wright scored on spectacularly physical individual play, pushing through two checking Czechs and deking a third before putting a backhand past Suchanek for a 2-0 lead after two periods.
Canada looked home free, but Kulich was able to tap in a puck under Milic with less than seven minutes to go in the third, and then Holl got credit for a shot that hit a Canadian defender and changed directions to get into the net to set up overtime.
World junior memories
There will be a lot to be remembered, including the fact it was the first one to include mostly unmasked sold-out crowds since 2020. It also included Thursday’s crazy 8-7 overtime win by the Americans over Sweden in the bronze-medal game that featured repeated lead changes, and a goal by the Americans with 1:37 remaining that looked like it would be the winner until the Swedes forced overtime with 22 seconds left in regulation.
The Czechs won a pool, the Slovaks were a tough out and the Austrians were relegated. Fans ate up every second, and seemed to drink every beer. Some bars reported running out of Alexander Keith’s pale ale halfway through the tournament.
The event will mostly be remembered for the buzz created by Bedard, the 17-year-old phenom from the Regina Pats.
Bedard will still be age-eligible for two more world juniors, but given his talent level he’s not likely to be back. He’ll instead be plying his trade for whatever NHL team is lucky enough to win the draft lottery.
So his world junior career ends with him owning a number of Canadian and tournament records:
- Bedard is the highest scoring Canadian in goals (17) and points (36) all time, supplanting Jordan Eberle on goals and Lindros’s 31 career points.
- He is the highest scoring Canadian in any single tournament (23 points), supplanting Dale McCourt and Brayden Schenn (18). That includes the most assists (14), easily surpassing Jason Allison’s 12.
- He is the highest scoring player from any country aged 18 or under in a tournament made for 19-year-olds, beating Jaromir Jagr’s record of 18.
- He is fourth all time in points (36), trailing only Peter Forsberg (42), Robert Reichel (41) and Bure (39)
- His 17 goals all time are sixth-most behind Bure (27), Vladimir Ruzicka (25), Markus Naslund (21), Niklas Sundstrom (18) and Petr Rosol (18).
- His 19 assists all time are tied for sixth-most, and one behind the Canadian record held by Ryan Ellis.
He was already the youngest player to score four goals in the same game, and in this tournament became the only player to have done it twice. That ties him with a number of players at most goals in a game by a Canadian. His seven-point night against Austria also tied a Canadian record for most points in a game.
Kevin McGran is a Star sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran
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