Sweet 16 does it again
by Andrew Podnieks|01 JAN 2023
Canada's Brennan Othmann #7 celebrates with Connor Bedard #16, Shane Wright #15, Olen Zellweger #3 and Dylan Guenther #11 after scoring a goal against Sweden.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Connor Bedard set up three Canada goals in the first 12 minutes of the game – and added a fourth helper in the third period – to lead the team to a hard-fought 5-1 win over Sweden.

The result moves Canada into second place and drops the Swedes to third in Group A, meaning Canada will now play Slovakia in Monday's quarter-finals while the Swedes will take on the Finns.

Incredibly, the was only the fifth game between the teams at the World Juniors since 2010.

The four points gave Bedard a share of two more Canadian records--most points all time, 31, tying Eric Lindros, and most points, one U20, 18, tying Dale McCourt and Brayden Schenn. He now leads the tournament in scoring, those 18 points miles ahead of Logan Stankoven, second, who had eight. Indeed, in Gretzky-like fashion, Bedard has more assists, 12, than any other player points.

"That's how we want to play," Bedard said of the team's overwhelming start. "That first period was pretty dominating for us and that's how we're going to try to do it the next three games. If we can do it, we'll be tough to play against."

In addition to Bedard, goalie Thomas Milic and the team’s penalty killers also deserve special mention in a thrilling and often testy game between two powerhouses saying goodbye to 2022 and hello to the playoffs in two days’ time.

"He was our MVP tonight; he was unbelievable," Bedard said of Milic. "We expect that from him. We know how good he is. He was unreal tonight and gave us some momentum as well."

"We try to play well every game but it was a tougher game than the others," Filip Bystedt conceded. "You either win or you learn, and tonight we definitely learned. But now we move on. We knew that we were playing in Canada, their home rink, the fans were going to cheer them on. We have to focus on ourselves and our game. We have to move the puck faster from the defensive zone. We got stuck a lot and gave them some chances which they scored on."
Canada vs Sweden - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
CAN SWE 01 JAN 2023
The sold-out crowd of 10,301 fans hadn’t settled into their seats before Canada made it 1-0. Bedard got to a loose puck off the corner boards and spotted Joshua Roy uncovered in the slot. Roy roofed a beautiful shot over the glove of Carl Lindbom.

Just 71 seconds later, Canada struck again, this time on a power play. Captain Shane Wright made a genius pass through the slot to Brennan Othmann to the back of the play, and he one-timed the puck into the open side. It was Canada’s 12th goal with the extra skater this tournament (no other country has more than five). Bedard was credited with the second assist on that one. 

"Shane with a great pass," Othmann said. "It was an easy back-door tap-in for me. It was a great entry, but credit to Shane on that pass. It was an outstanding play, drives everyone to him, and slides it back door."

To complete the hat trick of helpers, Bedard made a sensational play along the boards, fighting off a check and getting the puck to Logan Stankoven who moved it to Tyson Hinds. Hinds, like Roy, went high glove successfully at 11:45 it make it 3-0.

Sweden didn’t get their first shot until near the midpoint of the period and looked intimidated and nervous, but Zack Ostapchuk was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing, and the energy fell from the building and the Canada bench. Bedard was nailed to the pine as the penalty killers came out one shift after another, and Sweden managed to get back into the game at 16:21 when a long wrister from Ludvig Jansson through traffic found the top corner over the shoulder of Milic.

Although there was no scoring in the second there were plenty of thrills. The Swedes slowly played their way into the game, and Canada helped out with some untimely penalties towards the end of the period which gave Sweden a five-on-three for 53 seconds. But Canada’s PK was letter perfect, and when there was trouble Milic stepped up and made several great saves, going from post to post, closing the five-hole, and controlling rebounds.

But if Sweden thought a comeback was in the making, they were put out of mind by Shane Wright on the first shift of the final period. He battled for the puck and got it to Dylan Guenther, who found Othmann to the back side. He snapped it in at the 35-second mark to make it 4-1.

Sweden could muster little in the way of top-flight chances after that, and Kevin Korchinski added to the lead with a high, bad-angle shot that beat Lindbom at 12:42, assisted by, of course, Bedard.

"We got away from our game on Boxing Day, but now we're starting to play well," Othmann noted. "All four lines are contributing, and our goalie had an outstanding game tonight."
Canada vs Sweden - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship