2023 WJC ROUND-UP
Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press | Getty Images
- The United States pulled out a wild 8-7 victory in a game that somewhat surprisingly became all about offence. For the second time in two games the US jumped out to a 2-0 lead, then allowed the other team to get back, as soon as the game was 3-3. The contest proceeded to swing back and forth from there with both teams looking like they were ready to seal the deal in the third period.
- First Sweden was up 6-5 early in the third thanks to a goal by Noah Ostlund. A few minutes later despite being knocked down attempting a spin, US captain Luke Hughes held the puck and snuck one in from his knees to tie it 6-6. Then late in the third American forward Cutter Gauthier knocked in a loose puck to put his team up. In the dying moments of the game with their goalie pulled Sweden would not quit as Fillip Bystedt banged the puck in off a rebound to force OT with only 22 seconds left. To finish it off as OT was winding down US forward Chaz Lucius picked up a loose puck in front of the net and found the twine for his third goal of the contest as well as the Bronze medal. "It's not the medal we came for, but you've got to get a medal," U.S. coach Rand Pecknold said.
- The bronze comes after the U.S. finished fifth at the 2022 WJC in August. Kaidan Mbereko played well after replacing Trey Augustine in net to start the third period, making 14 saves on 16 shots. Augustine, who had a good tournament, struggled against Sweden allowing five goals on 20 shots. Cutter Gauthier scored two goals, and Ryan Ufko and Logan Cooley, who was the tournament's second-leading scorer, each had a goal and an assist for the Americans. Filip Bystedt had two goals and an assist, and Leo Carlsson, a top prospect for the 2023 draft had a goal and an assist for Sweden, which won bronze at the 2022 WJC in August. Swedish netminder Carl Lindbom made 28 saves in the loss, improving on his already promising outlook.
- This game was more as expected, a tight contest featuring a constant battle for the puck with both teams trying to dictate their different style of play on the other. For much of the game, Canada won out by controlling the puck and keeping the pressure on Czechia with a barrage of shots. Czech netminder Tomas Suchanek was outstanding keeping his team in it with 35 saves in the game. The scoring started when Dylan Guenther tallied on a slap shot from the top of the left circle with the man advantage to give Canada a 1-0 lead at 12:41 of the first period. In the next frame, last year's fourth overall pick Kraken forward and Canada’s captain Shane Wright made it 2-0 on his 19th birthday at 4:35 of the second period, scoring on a backhand near the front of the net.
- Late in the third, partially thanks to some impressive work from Thomas Millic, it seemed Canada was primed to win its second straight gold medal. All of a sudden Czechia rallied for two goals in a span of 54 seconds late in the frame to tie it 2-2. Semifinals hero Jiri Kulich scored on a shot in the slot that clinked off the post at 12:30, then Jakub Kos tied it on a redirect in front at 13:24. Despite both teams generating chances as the third wound down, the game went to overtime. Soon the man who started the scoring would finish it, as Dylan Guenther scored his second goal 6:22 into overtime; winning Canada the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship. Guenther finished a 2-on-1 with Joshua Roy by firing the puck into the twine from the slot for Canada, which became the first team to win back-to-back championships since it won the last of five straight in 2009. Winger Brennan Othmann had two assists for Canada in its 35th top-three finish. Netminder Thomas Milic, the only player on Canada's roster who was passed over in the NHL Draft, made 24 saves in the win including a few crucial ones in OT. Interestingly Canada had nine first-round NHL Draft picks on its roster; Czechia had two.
- Canada finished the tournament winning seven straight tournament games, during which they outscored their opponents 40-10. Czechia was playing in the gold-medal game for the first time since winning back-to-back championships in 2000-2001. It won its seventh WJC silver medal and first since 1987. It last medaled in 2005 (bronze). Canada has now won 20 gold medals at the WJC including four of the last six.
- To the surprise of very few (if any) Canadian standouts Connor Bedard was named tournament MVP, he is the youngest player to receive the award since it started being given in 2004. The projected 2023 first-overall pick led the tournament with nine goals and 14 assists, having nine more points than runner-up Logan Cooley. He set a new Canadian record for all-time goals and points in the World Juniors (with his 15th goal and 32nd point respectively).
- The 17-year-old passed Jordan Eberle for goals and finished with 16 while passing Eric Lindros for points and finished with 36 despite playing five fewer games than Lindros. Bedard was also selected tournament's top forward after, while Czechia’s David Jiriceck and Slovakia’s Adam Gajan were named top defenceman and goaltender.
- Lastly, Bedard headlined the tournament's all-star team being joined by United States Logan Cooley and Czechia’s Jiri Kulich for the forwards. Jiriceck and Sweden's Ludvig Jansson were named to the two blueline spots and Czechia’s Tomas Suchanek was given the honour of the only goaltending spot.
By: Chase Howard