Canada beats U.S. to reach World Junior gold medal game
For the second time in just under five months, Canada will play for the World Junior Championship gold medal.
Connor Bedard scored yet again and added an assist as Canada defeated the United States 6-2 to advance to the tournament final against Czechia on Thursday, setting up a rematch of Canada's Boxing Day loss to open the tournament.
Watch the final at 6:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. PT Thursday evening LIVE across the TSN Network, the TSN App and on TSN.ca.
Canadian goaltender Thomas Milic stopped 43 of 45 shots in the win. He is undefeated since relieving original starter Ben Gaudreau in their opener.
“I thought we started off a little rough and we were behind pretty quickly 2-0 and shots were lopsided,” said Canada head coach Dennis Williams.
“I thought out bench did a good job just staying calm, sticking to the game plan. Obviously we had good contribution from everybody up and down our lineup and our best player tonight was our goaltender, which definitely helped.”
Milic won player of the game and got a loud ovation from the home fans.
"Oh man, that was incredible. Definitely the coolest moment of my hockey career and maybe of my life, too. It's awesome having that much support back home and all across Canada," he said.
The Americans started fast, taking a 2-0 lead and recording the first nine shots on target before Canada settled in to score six consecutive goals. The U.S. had two goals called back on goaltender interference, one in the second period and one in the third. Head coach Rand Pecknold was no fan of the rulings.
"I would say I'm pretty frustrated with the two disallowed goals but I'm not going to comment on officiating other than, you know, you've got 18, 19-year-old kids in this environment and you had two taken away. That's a huge part of the game for sure. But I'm not going to comment on the officials. The head officials can deal with that."
Early goals from Logan Cooley and Kenny Connors quieted a heavily partisan crowd at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax. But just as he's done all tournament, Bedard was there when his team needed him most as he took a feed from Ethan del Mastro and tucked it in for his ninth of the tournament to cut the American lead in half.
Bedard has the most all-time goals (17) and points (36) by a Canadian at the event and also owns the points record (23) at a single tournament by a Canadian player. The Regina Pats star is also one goal shy of the Canadian single-tournament record held by John Anderson and Dale McCourt at 10.
Logan Stankoven tied the game early in the second period off a feed from Joshua Roy, his second assist of the game. Adam Fantilli, a projected top-five pick in next summer's NHL Draft, scored Canada's third straight goal to take a 3-2 lead early in the second period. Roy then made it 4-2 mid-way through the frame and Bedard assisted on the goal, giving the presumptive top pick in next summer's NHL Draft his fifth consecutive multi-point game.
Brandt Clarke added some insurance for Canada in the third period and Roy put a bow on things with an empty-netter to give him two goals and four points on the night.
American netminder Trey Augustine came into the game with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage, but allowed five of Canada's 36 shots on him through Thursday.
“We had some really good chances throughout the game,” said U.S. captain Luke Hughes. “We couldn’t bury ours, and they buried theirs. We lost, and that sucks. But you know, we’ve got a chance to win a medal tomorrow. And that’s important. So we’ve got to wrap our heads around that.”
Canada’s tournament nearly came to an end Monday night against Slovakia but an incredible overtime winner from Bedard kept their hopes of repeating as champions alive. The 17-year-old also opened the scoring in the game to break Jordan Eberle’s Canadian World Junior career goals record of 14 and also collected his 32nd career Juniors point, passing Eric Lindros’ mark of 31 that had stood as the top Canadian total since 1992.
The Czechs handed Canada their first ever opening-game loss as tournament hosts behind three second-period goals and 36 saves from goaltender Tomas Suchanek.
"We're not going to 'Michigan' our way to the finals," said forward Dylan Guenther after Canada tried the lacrosse-style move unsuccessfully twice early on.
"We have a lot of guys with high skill, but in the first 10 minutes of the game, first period of the game, we were thinking, 'Hey, let's get a cute one here. Let's make the crowd happy.' But that's not how you win hockey games," Clarke said.
Since then, Canada tightened things up offensively and won their final three group stage games by a combined score of 27-3. Roy said Canada remembers how the loss felt and they're prepared to not let it happen again on the tournament's biggest stage.
"Oh yeah. We remember the first game," he said with a smile.
“One more. It’s all about emptying the tank tomorrow. Let’s do it for each other,” Williams said.
Czechia stunned Sweden 2-1 with an overtime victory in the other semifinal matchup on Wednesday. The Swedes led 1-0 late into the third period but David Jiricek tied things with 39 seconds to go and then Jiri Kulich scored late in the extra frame to complete the comeback and keep Sweden out of the gold medal game for the fifth straight year.
USA will play the Swedes for bronze Thursday afternoon.