Canada gets shot at redemption against Czechia in World Junior final
Captain Shane Wright said Canada was disappointed and didn't play up to standard in their loss to Czechia on Boxing Day, a 5-2 defeat to open the tournament that marked the first time they've lost their World Junior Championship opener on home soil.
Now, they have the ultimate shot at payback.
Canada will play Czechia in the gold medal game Thursday in Halifax as they look for their second World Junior title in the span of just under five months.
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.
Canada defeated the United States 6-2 in their semifinal showdown Wednesday night behind four points from Joshua Roy and a superb effort from goaltender Thomas Milic, who allowed two quick goals but put a lid on things nicely to stop 43 of 45 shots in the victory. Milic was named player of the game and called the sweet serenade he received from the Scotiabank Centre crowd the "coolest moment of my hockey career."
"I think it’s just what I love. It’s something I’ve always had in me from a young age. I love those high-pressure situations and as we progress through the tournament here it’s just getting better and better," Milic said.
"I get to see him a lot. Obviously, I coach against him with the Seattle Thunderbirds that he plays for and I've seen it in him before. You know, obviously, tonight he really elevated his game," head coach Dennis Williams said.
The Americans had two scores called back on goaltender interference, one in the second frame and one in the third.
"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," U.S. head coach Rand Pecknold said.
Joshua Roy had two goals and two assists in the victory while Logan Stankoven, Brandt Clarke, Adam Fantilli and Connor Bedard all had two points apiece.
Speaking of Bedard, Canada likely wouldn't be in Thursday's final if the 17-year-old Regina Pats star didn't take matters into his own hands and will Canada to a 4-3 overtime victory over Slovakia in the quarterfinal on Monday.
Already with a goal and an assist on the night, Bedard knifed through the defence and backhanded home his prettiest goal of the tournament to end the Slovak threat and avoid a major letdown for Canada in the quarters.
"I couldn’t score on a shot so I kind of had to do something," Bedard said of the winner.
"To hear [the crowd], you kind of black out a bit. But even after the goal the crowd was so loud I thought I was going deaf or something. So, it was pretty nuts."
The projected top pick in next summer's NHL Draft, 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. Bedard is also one goal shy of the Canadian single-tournament record held by John Anderson and Dale McCourt at 10.
Canada made headlines by attempting a lacrosse-style wrap-around shot -- often referred to as the Michigan -- twice in the first period of their Boxing Day loss.
"We're not going to 'Michigan' our way to the finals," said Arizona Coyotes winger Dylan Guenther. "We're trying it a lot. It's a skilled play, I get it, but I think that's how our game's going right now. We're trying to skill our way through it. We're trying to toe-drag and beat guys 1-on-1 and to win you have to play the right way, play together and play as a team."
But Canada appears to have learned from the setback, closing out the round-robin stage with three lopsided wins before Monday's victory over Slovakia and Wednesday's win over the U.S. in the medal round.
Not that the stakes could get any higher, but it seems like Canada is coming in with a chip on their shoulder.
"Well, it’s how they reacted after the game when they won. I mean, they were pretty cocky, I will say. So, we won’t forget that … They were celebrating like they won the gold medal," Roy said.
“One more. It’s all about emptying the tank tomorrow. Let’s do it for each other,” Williams said.