Canada has captured back-to-back gold medals at the world juniors, ousting Czechia in overtime in dramatic fashion on Thursday night.
Coyotes first-rounder Dylan Guenther played the hero in overtime for Canada, finishing a perfectly executed 2-on-1 off a gorgeous feed from Joshua Roy.
It's been over a decade since a team has won back-to-back world junior golds, with Canada capturing five consecutive titles from 2005 to 2009 — an era that saw the likes of John Tavares, Jonathan Toews, Brad Marchand, Drew Doughty, Claude Giroux, and Carey Price springboard their NHL careers.
This year, Canada’s roster featured phenom Connor Bedard, along with highly-touted players such as Guenther, Shane Wright, Brandt Clarke, Logan Stankoven, and Adam Fantilli.
Guenther opened the scoring for Canada at 12:41 of the first period on the power play. Clarke slid a perfect pass from the point to Guenther in the left circle who one-timed a shot through Czechia netminder Tomas Suchanek.
In the second, Shane Wright scored a highlight reel goal, fending off one defender while toe dragging around another to the middle of the ice where he went backhand short side over Suchanek’s glove.
The third period, however, saw a gigantic shift in fortunes for Czechia, who scored twice in under a minute late in the frame to tie the game 2-2. Semifinal hero Jiri Kulich, a first round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, got things going for Czechia. Eduard Sale put a shot through Milic off the post where Kulich found the loose puck in the crease and shoveled it home. Then, capitalizing off a turnover, Thomas Hamara put a shot through traffic, which Jakob Kos tipped off a Canadian defender tying the game at two.
There were some tense moments in the extra frame for the red and white, but it was ultimately Guenther scoring Canada’s golden goal — in fitting fashion.
Between the pipes for Canada, Thomas Milic, the lone Canadian passed over in the NHL Draft, was spectacular throughout the tournament, including in the gold medal game. Milic, who plays for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, made 23 saves capturing his second gold medal for Canada after winning the U-18 World Championship in 2021.
After falling 5-2 to Czechia in their opening game of the tournament, Canada took notice to Czechia’s post game celebration. "They celebrated like they won the gold medal," Roy, a Canadiens prospect, said. "They were pretty cocky. We won’t forget."
Canada exacted revenge on this night, getting their opportunity to celebrate with real gold around their neck in the final, led by Guenther’s three point night.
Five Canadians are eligible to return to next year’s tournament, although two, Connor Bedard and Shane Wright, are almost certain to be in the NHL.
In the bronze medal game, USA outlasted Sweden in an 8-7 contest, with Chaz Lucius scoring a hat trick for the Americans.
After coming oh so close to their first gold since 2001, Czechia's medal drought at the tournament still came to an end after 17 years with the silver.
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