Guenther scores in OT, Canada beats Czechia for 20th world junior gold
Canada is the first team to repeat since the country won five straight gold medals between 2005 and 2009, after Connor Bedard and seven other returnees also led the Edmonton summer showcase delayed by the pandemic.
Bedard was named MVP of the tournament.
Jiri Kulich and Jakub Kos answered for the Czech Republic. Tomas Suchanek stopped 35 shots.
The Czechs beat an inconsistent Canada for the first time in 3,285 days as they clinched a then stunning 5-2 win on December 26 and reached the final for the first time since their only gold medal triumphs in 2000 and 2001.
The Czech Republic – the country commonly known as the Czech Republic – finished fourth in the summer and won their first medal since 2005. The United States clinched a wild 8-7 overtime win over Sweden to take the bronze.
Bedard, the Canadian phenomenon who rewrote both the tournament and national record books page after page in Halifax, was held back from the scorers’ list on Thursday.
It does not matter.
Midway through the first period, the Czechs came close in a deafening Scotiabank Center when Gabriel Szturc hit the bar.
Unsatisfied with the Czech Republic’s ebullient celebrations after their Boxing Day win, the Canadians made up for their first power play.
Gunther, one of three NHL players loaned to the national team for the tournament along with Wright and Brandt Clarke, shot down a buckshot at 12:41 p.m. for his sixth place finish in the tournament before the familiar sounds of “Heave Away” The Fables sounded the ice rink bathed in red and white.
Milic, who made 43 saves in the 6-2 semifinals win over the Americans, continued to excel as the game progressed with stops against Kulich and Martin Rysavy.
Caedan Bankier almost made it 2-0 for Canada early in the second half when he was outnumbered but the goal was flagged down due to goalkeeper interference after he crashed into Suchanek.
The Czech keeper then made big stops against Zack Ostapchuk and Logan Stankoven in separate one-on-one sequences before Wright struck.
The No. 4 in last summer’s NHL draft, who had an up-and-down tournament through Thursday, snagged the puck in the neutral zone and fended off a defender before going past two others and a backhand atop the short Page for his covered fourth at 4:35.
Growing up, Wright watched every junior world final on his birthday, and the crowd responded after his goal by chanting “Happy Birthday” to the Canada captain.
Brennan Othmann, who turned 20 on Thursday, almost made it 3-0 but Suchanek made massive stops with a man advantage.
Wright almost scored a 2-on-1 midway through the third as a chance that would have sealed it, but the Czechs finally got on the board with 7:30 left when Kulich followed up a rebound off the post home slammed.
Jakub Kos then equalized to stun the Canadians and the Partisan crowd just 54 seconds later after Clarke failed to clear the puck twice from his own zone to force overtime.
Guenther then etched his name into the world of Junior lore.
Bedard, who is slated for the 2023 NHL draft pick, set a boatload of records in the Maritimes.
The scintillating 17-year-old from North Vancouver, BC, Bedard holds the national record with 23 all-time goals and 17 all-time goals at the world juniors.
Bedard also set a new mark for most points by a Canadian in a single tournament at 23, holds the national record with 14 assists in an event, and has the most points by a player aged 18 or younger.
Bedard’s all-time 19 assists is just a point behind Ryan Ellis’ national mark, while he was just a point away from tying Markus Naslund and Raimo Helminen for second-most by a player from any country at a tournament.
He is also the first player in history to score four goals twice – this summer against Austria and again in Halifax.
Canada beat Slovakia 4-3 in extra time in the quarter-finals, thanks to Bedard’s stunning individual performance, before bouncing back from a two-goal deficit against the United States in the semi-finals.
The Czechs beat Switzerland in the quarters, scoring late in the rule to set up a 2-1 OT win over Sweden before losing to pre-tournament favorites in the final.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on January 5, 2023.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press