Bedard, Canada back in gold-medal final at world junior hockey championship

Bedard, Canada back in gold-medal final at world junior hockey championship

Team Canada advanced to the Thursday’s gold-medal game at the world junior hockey championship with a 6-2 win over Team USA.

Connor Bedard (16) of Team Canada celebrates his first goal of Wednesday's semifinal against Team USA at the 2023 IIHF world junior championship in Halifax.
Connor Bedard (16) of Team Canada celebrates his first goal of Wednesday’s semifinal against Team USA at the 2023 IIHF world junior championship in Halifax. Photo by Minas Panagiotakis /Getty Images

Connor Bedard is in position to win back-to-back gold medals at the IIHF world junior hockey men’s championship.

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The Regina Pats’ phenom had a goal and an assist as Canada defeated the United States 6-2 in a Wednesday semi-final in Halifax.

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Canada advances to Thursday’s final (5:30 p.m., TSN, CJME) against Czechia, which defeated Sweden 2-1 in overtime in Wednesday’s other semifinal. Czechia is captained by Pats defenceman Stanislav Svozil.

The 17-year-old Bedard, the presumptive first overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft, shared in a gold medal at the 2022 world championship that was held in Edmonton and Red Deer.

The bronze-medal game, set for a 1:30 p.m. faceoff on Thursday, features the United States and Sweden.

Canadian goaltender Thomas Milic stole the show from Bedard. Milic stopped 43 of 45 shots en route to being named Canada’s player of the game. The Americans had two goals called back on goaltender interference — one in the second period and one in the third.

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The Americans got off to a fast start with first-period goals by Logan Cooley (1:19) and Kenny Connors (10:30).

The Canadians rebounded when Bedard deflected a pass from Ethan Del Mastro by American goaltender Trey Augustine at 11:49 of the first period. The 2-1 score held up through the first intermission.

Canada grabbed a 4-2 lead during an entertaining second frame. Canada’s Logan Stankoven tied the game 2-2 just 47 seconds into the second period. Adam Fantilli scored the go-ahead goal for Canada at 5:46.

The Americans appeared to tie the game when Jackson Blake beat Milic at 7:22. However, Canada successfully challenged the goal for goaltender interference by Blake.

Bedard then picked up his second point on Joshua Roy’s go-ahead goal at 12:20 of the second period. Stankoven took a pass from Bedard and then fed Roy at the side of net for Canada’s third goal of the period.

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The Canadians maintained their two-goal advantage after the Americans’ third goal of the game was overturned by another successful challenge on goaltender interference by Canada’s coaching staff, just 38 seconds into the third period.

Brandt Clarke increased Canada’s lead to 5-2 at 9:45 of the third period. Roy iced the win for Canada with an empty-net goal at 16:45.

Czechia advanced to the final when Jiri Kulich scored with 40 seconds remaining in the 10-minute sudden-death period.

Czechia’s David Jiricek forced overtime when he scored with 39 seconds left in the third period. Ludvig Jansson scored in the second period for Sweden.

Canada’s only loss at the tournament took place in the opening game for both teams when Czechia won 5-2 on Dec. 26.

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This will be Czechia’s first gold-medal game appearance at the world juniors since it repeated as the champion in 2001.

Bedard heads into Thursday’s final with the most all-time goals (17) and points (36) by a Canadian at the world junior championship. He also owns the points record (23) at a single tournament by a Canadian player. He’s one goal shy of the Canadian single-tournament record of 10, shared by John Anderson and Dale McCourt.

The sports world is ever-changing, as are the times. Supplement your steady diet of sports coverage by subscribing to the Regina Leader-Post’s 306 Sports Fix newsletter. Each week, sports editor Rob Vanstone will provide additional commentary on the Roughriders, Pats and other teams/sports of interest, along with a peek behind the curtain. Click here to subscribe.

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