IIHF WORLD JUNIORS: Guenther scores golden goal as Canada captures title in overtime
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A golden moment in a sea of red.
Dylan Günther scored the golden goal 6-22 in overtime and led Canada to a 3-2 win over the Czech Republic in the IIHF World Junior Championship final in front of a boisterous, sold-out Scotiabank Center crowd, almost all dressed in red.
In the three-on-three extra frame, in a give-and-go with Joshua Roy, Guenther took a perfect cross-create feed and hit Czech goalie Tomas Suchanek on the short side, sending Team Canada and their fans in frenzy.
For a moment, Günther wasn’t even aware of the importance of the goal.
Canadian players run off the bench to celebrate their 3-2 overtime win over the Czech Republic in the gold medal game at the IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships Thursday in Halifax. – RYAN TAPLIN / THE CHRONICLES HERALD
“I didn’t take my gloves off right away,” the six-foot-tall Arizona Coyotes winger recalled with a wry smile. “I almost forgot it was overtime, all or nothing. But then I saw (Roy) throw his things away.
“It couldn’t have been better to do it with this team in front of these fans. That was a lot of fun. These are the moments when you wanted to be there as a child. They dream of playing for the gold medal in the game and working overtime. It’s really fun with the audience behind you. I will never forget that.”
Goals from Guenther and captain Shane Wright led Canada 2-0 late in the third period, and celebrations at the Arena in downtown Halifax began to gather momentum.
But Jiri Kulich and Jakub Kos scored 54 seconds apart, breathing new life into the Czech team and forcing the game to a golden moment.
Canadians Ethan del Mastro and Connor Bedard celebrate their gold medal win. – RYAN TAPLIN / THE CHRONICLES HERALD
“At the break we knew it was a different game, three against three, so we just had to prepare for the next shift. That was our attitude,” said Günther. “We didn’t talk about the past or what happened. We just looked ahead, played hockey and be ourselves.”
Connor Bedard, the 17-year-old fan favorite who led all scorers’ lists with a Canadian record nine goals and 23 points, was named tournament MVP.
“I’m running out of things to say about how incredible his performance was throughout the tournament,” Wright said of the consensus top pick for the 2023 NHL draft. “How mature he was, how bad he was for every single guy was a good teammate. He cares more about the team than himself. He was amazing. He was easily the MVP of the tournament, the best player of the tournament.”
Canada came out of the gate playing a more physical, hard-hitting style of hockey.
Canadian striker Caedan Bankier meets Czech goalkeeper Tomas Suchanek in the second half of Thursday’s gold medal game. – RYAN TAPLIN / THE CHRONICLES HERALD
Shortly after Brennan Othmann demolished star blueliner David Jiricek on the boards at the Czech end, Jiricek was called to a hold, sending Canada on their first power play midway through the first third.
With 10 seconds to go, Guenther fired a rocket from the left faceoff circle that slammed Suchanek high to the short side for the early Canadian lead.
The momentum carried into the middle frame and Wright delivered a highlight reel goal on his 19th birthday.
The Seattle Kraken rookie stripped fellow captain Czech defender Stanislav Svozil, then smacked Suchanek with a backhand shot high over his left shoulder for a 2-0 lead at 4:35 of the second period.
“That was one of the most beautiful goals I’ve ever seen,” said Günther. “Dancing through these guys and then backhand, top shelf, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Disgusting 🤮🔥 Shane Wright’s goal #WorldJuniors #CANvsCZE #IIHF pic.twitter.com/KgrZGyw1Sf
— Kearsey96 | Twitch (@Kearsey96) January 6, 2023
The Halifax crowd serenaded the Canadian captain a rousing Happy Birthday.
“It was pretty cool,” Wright said. “It seems Bedsy (Bedard) is rubbing off on me. It’s a piece he would pull through.”
Similar to their overtime win over Sweden in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Czech Republic once again had a flare for drama.
Kulich, who scored the OT winner against Sweden, scored on a rebound with 7:30 staying the rule. Less than a minute later, Kos diverted a point shot that ricocheted off the leg of a Canadian defender and slipped past Canada goalkeeper Thomas Milic.
A shot goes over the Czech net as Canada’s Brennan Othmann tries to shield the goaltender during the first half of Thursday’s IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships gold medal game at the Scotiabank Centre. – RYAN TAPLIN / THE CHRONICLES HERALD
“We talked in the locker room about just chipping the puck behind the D,” said Czech defenseman David Moravec, who, as a member of the Mooseheads, is used to playing in front of big Halifax crowds. “We just had to get the first one and we had a feeling the next one was coming.
It is the Czech Republic’s first medal at World Juniors since winning a second consecutive gold medal in 2001.
“I’m super happy with this team,” said Moravec. “This tournament was crazy but I’m happy. It’s amazing to get a medal in my last World Junior Championships. It’s the biggest thrill of my career.”
Captain Shane Wright holds the trophy as he poses with his Canadian teammates after their gold medal win at the IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships in Halifax on Thursday. – RYAN TAPLIN / THE CHRONICLES HERALD
It is Canada’s 20th overall junior world title and second in less than five months. Canada captured the delayed event of 2022 in Edmonton last summer.
Wright said this team “created a bond that I will share for the rest of my life.”
“Since Day 1 at camp we’ve connected so well and so quickly,” he said. “I call all these guys my best friends and my brothers.”