Guenther scores golden goal
by Andrew Podnieks|06 JAN 2023
Team Canada players celebrate with the trophy after beating Czechia in overtime for gold at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship.
photo: Tim Austen / IIHF
Dylan Guenther scored his second goal of the game at 6:22 of the unlimited three-on-three overtime to give Canada the gold medal at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship in Halifax. He took a give-and-go pass from Joshua Roy on a two-on-one started when Jiri Kulich lost the puck crossing the Canada blue line, and finished with a perfect re-direct into the open side of the net.

"Words can't describe this," Guenther said after. "It was a lot of fun. You never know when you're going to get the opportunity to win again. To be here with this team, and play in front of these fans, it couldn't have ended better."

The goal ended a thrilling final and gave Canada its second gold in a matter of just five months and its 20th all-time gold at the World Junior Championship.
Canada had built an impressive 2-0 lead through two periods but tried to sit on the lead in the third, allowing the Czechs to tie the game midway through the period and setting the stage for a magical moment from Guenther, who joins a long list of Canadians with a flare for the dramatic.

"It was a couple of mistakes that ended up in the back of our net," Wright explained. "We knew we had to re-set. We knew we were the better team most of the night."

"Right away, [we felt] a bit of frustration," Guenther added, "especially the first shift after a goal and we get scored on again. That shouldn't happen. In the intermission, we knew it's a different game in three-on-three. That was our mindset. We didn't talk about the past, just deal with what's next. These are the moments you want to be in as a kid. You dream of playing in the gold-medal game, playing in overtime."

"We've said from the get-go that our shirts have our 60 Plus on," coach Dennis Williams said. "Resilient for 60-plus minutes. We've talked about that all along. And you know, as much as we sometimes want to win games in 60 minutes, we may not. We have good opponents out there. Other countries are strong. You see the parity in the game right now."

"The whole team gives us that motivation," said Jakub Kos, who scored the tying goal in the third. "Everybody knows that we have that thing in our team, that we can do everything. I've said many times, I'm so proud of this team and for the whole team. Of course, the players are on the ice, but people don't see the other people who care about the team. So I would like to thank everybody."
Czechia vs Canada (Final) - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
CZE CAN 06 JAN 2023
Canada outshot the Czechs, 38-26, but both goalies were sensational. Thomas Milic, ignored for two years in the draft, was brilliant the last two weeks and will have no problem attracting NHL suitors now. His counterpart and WHL opponent, Tomas Suchanek, played every minute for the Czechs this tournament, and will certainly be drafted later this summer after his incredible performance.

In regulation, Canada was led by the Birthday Boys, Brennan Othmann, who turned 20 and had two assists, and captain Shane Wright, who turned 19 and scored Canada's second goal in brilliant fashion.

"It's all pretty cool," Wright said. "It hasn't sunk in yet. It's my birthday, and I just won a gold medal at the World Juniors. Unbelievable feeling."

Although Connor Bedard was held off the scoresheet, the 17-year-old was named tournament MVP and has now already won three junior-level gold medals--one at the U18 and two at U20. He played 2:59 of the 6:22 of overtime, most of any player.

For Czechia, the loss was devastating for a group of players who started together at the U18, and who felt destined to win a first gold for their country since 2001. They fell just one goal short but played a terrific game and tournament and had their best finish in 22 years.
Canada once again had a nervous start, as it did yesterday against the U.S., and it could have trailed early had Gabriel Szturc not wired a shot off the post in behind Milic. But this time the nerves were taken care of ten minutes in thanks to the player of the period, Othmann, who was skating in his final junior game.

Othmann worked hard in the offensive corner to draw a holding penalty on David Jiricek, and on the ensuing power play Othmann made a critical play. He dove after a loose puck in the corner to maintain Canadian possession, and moments later Guenther ripped a high shot over Suchanek to open the scoring at 12:41.

Later in period Othmann brought the fans to their feet when he hammered Jaroslav Chmelar with a clean but heavy hit along the boards in the Czechia end. Soon after, Milic showed his worth again, stoning Martin Rysavy on a breakaway to keep it 1-0 after 20 minutes.

Canada showed no nerves in the second, and although the Czechs got the early power play, Canada had the best chance. A mix-up at the Canadian blue line between Czechs allowed Zack Ostapchuk to dash the length of the ice, but Suchanek made a stellar toe save to keep it a one-goal game.

Although Bedard was having a quiet night, he brought roars from the crowd when he made a diving pass in the Czech end to give Logan Stankoven a clear break, but Stankoven, too, couldn’t solve Suchanek. It was Wright who doubled Canada’s lead on a highlight-reel goal. He fought off Adam Mechura, deked Stanislav Svozil into next week, and then roofed a backhand at 4:35 to bring the “Heave Away” goal anthem back on the sound system.

But later in the period Canada became a little casual and allowed the Czechs to build confidence, moving the puck more easily up ice and into the Canadian end. When needed, Milic was brilliant, square to the shooters, offering nothing in the way of a second chance, and steadying the team, but it was not a strong finish to the period for Canada.
Team Canada players celebrate with the gold medal after beating Czechia in overtime in the final.
Canada started the third playing a dangerous game of sit on the lead, not trying to get into the Czech end or score, content only to chip the puck out, and chip it in. This gave the Czechs some hope, and although midway through the period Canada forechecked successfully for a couple of minutes, the Czechs came right back and scored.

Chmelar's shot hit the post, and Kulich was right there to knock the puck into the open net at 12:30. Just 54 seconds later, it was a tie game. Tomas Hamara's long shot was tipped in front by Jakub Kos, just past the outstretched skate of Milic, and Canada's strategy had backfired.

Now the players had to find their legs from the first period, which they couldn't manage to do in regulation. Indeed, the Czechs kept going and nearly won, and it was Canada that was a bit fortunate to get to overtime.

But once there, Canada did what Canada so often does--comes up big under pressure.

"You've probably seen it earlier in the tournament," Gabriel Szturc said of his team's determined comeback. "We were down against Sweden. We were down against Canada in the first game. And we were down against Switzerland, too, after the first shift. So we have a plan and every guy was believing in the plan. So we were so excited to just score a goal, score another goal and tie the game, and hope to win the gold medal. Unfortunately, in overtime, it was kind of a wild overtime, because it's three on three, and we lost. It's not great, but I'm very proud of this team and what we've done here. I hope that our fans in Czech Republic are proud too."

"Best feeling in the world," Wright enthused. "Couldn't be more proud of the guys. Couldn't be more happy, more proud."
Czechia vs Canada (Final) - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship