HALIFAX | A few months after Kent Johnson, Dylan Guenther is the new hero of Canadian youth hockey. The striker scored the game-winner in overtime on Thursday as Canada’s youth team beat the Czechs 3-2 for a second straight gold medal.
• Read also: World Juniors: Bronze for the Americans
• Read also: First place in Group A: the first in 22 years for the Czechs
Junior Team Canada looked headed for the 20th gold medal in team history, but blew a 2-0 lead by surrendering twice within 54 seconds of the third period to revive the Czechs.
But the team saved the honor in extra time when Joshua Roy went two against one with Günther, before giving him up, and the latter did not miss his opportunity.
“All I remember is that I didn’t put the gloves on right away,” Guenther laughed. I almost forgot we were in overtime and then I saw Roy throw his team into the air. »
In his case, it was a particular feeling that he did not expect to experience. Last year he made the team in December when the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. An injury had deprived him of recovery in August.
“It is so special to me. I didn’t know if I would have this opportunity again and being here, in front of these fans, could not have ended in a better way. »
Record for Roy
In Roy’s case, it was another great play at a great time, finishing the contest with 11 points in seven games.
“I found the defender going to the ground quickly, so I thought it was a sure thing that we would have a two against nil. I was just patient and gave it to Guenther and he capitalized. Then I saw the record and everyone started screaming. It was an incredible moment,” he said.
With a career total of 19 points, in two tournament appearances, Roy also became the most productive Quebec player in this tournament’s history, surpassing Jonathan Huberdeau’s mark.
“After the third period, I told the other coaches that I felt like the game was going to come from Josh Roy. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen him do this extra time. Calm and patience are needed”, added assistant coach Stéphane Julien.
Unsurprisingly, Connor Bedard was named the tournament’s striker but also its quintessential player. He finished the contest with 23 points in seven games. David Jiricek was named the tournament’s defender, while Slovakia’s Adam Gajan was awarded the quintessential goalkeeper award.
happy birthday shane
While Guenther was the hero of the game with two goals, captain Shane Wright undoubtedly played his best game of the competition. He scored a beautiful goal in the second, which made it 2-0.
All this on the night of his 19th birthday.
“It’s a special moment and I still don’t fully realize it,” Wright admitted, proudly holding the world champion trophy in his hands. It’s my birthday and I just won the gold medal in the Junior World Cup. It’s just amazing. »
On loan from the Seattle Kraken, Wright, like several other Canadian forwards, had had a tough tournament.
“Shane Wright played a good game today. He scored a great goal. I think Bedard took up a lot of space early in the tournament. Did that lessen the internal atmosphere a bit? Can be. And Bedard is a very quiet guy, but the media was so all over him that I think it took a while for everyone to fit in there. Today we saw 22 players who dedicated themselves to winning until the end. »
The gold medal almost makes you forget that ECJ had a lot of fun. In control of the game for over 50 minutes, they let their opponents come from behind, cooling the fervor of the crowd at the Scotiabank Centre.
“I won’t hide the fact that we felt doubts settled in the players’ heads, but I think that going back to the locker room after the third half did us good. He brought us together, we put our things up and the guys saw this victory in the locker room. We started from scratch and I think we dominated extra time”, said Stéphane Julien.
“Obviously we had to reinforce our defensive game. We had to get the puck better as we had made two mistakes at this level on his two goals. It was the slogan in the locker room. We also told ourselves that we had to have confidence in ourselves”, mentioned Nathan Gaucher, who admitted that the victory against the Czechs was even sweeter considering that he had beaten them in the first group game.
To which Julien agreed.
“It motivated us a lot. I get it, teams want to beat Canada in Canada. On the other hand, the guys remembered what happened after the game. We’re not far between the two locker rooms, so hearing the screams of the other team, that motivated them. »
The king of the world
Only Connor Bedard was missing gold to complete what will probably be remembered as the most dominant display by a Canadian player at the World Junior Championships.
Yes, there were others: Eric Lindros in 1991, John Tavares and Jordan Eberle in 2009 or even Mason McTavish, last August.
But it will be difficult to find arguments against the tournament that Bedard has just experienced. The record is unequivocal: 23 points in seven games and many broken records.
One only has to wonder where Junior Team Canada would be without Connor Bedard to realize the full extent of the impact he had on the Canadian roster. This team, seen by many as one of the best on paper the country had ever seen, was eventually swept away by the 17-year-old wunderkind, and, admittedly, his line was completed by Logan Stankoven and Joshua Roy.
Fortunately, in Thursday’s finale, the two forwards on loan from their NHL teams, Dylan Guenther and Shane Wright, were impact players. Wright had his best game of the competition, by far. But his tournament was mixed. The defensive team also suffered some setbacks in the tournament that could have cost the Canadians a gold medal shot, had it not been for Bedard and the brilliance of goaltender Thomas Milic.
Furthermore, Bedard and Milic stole the quarterfinal game from Slovakia, which had collectively outplayed Canada. There is no other way to say it.
the first of the class
If there were any doubts about Connor Bedard’s legitimacy as the world’s best prospect for the upcoming draft, they have been dispelled. No, they were eclipsed. Adam Fantilli, seen by many as his closest rival, had a rocky start to the tournament before ending on a high note. Swede Leo Carlsson has certainly raised his rating with recruiters.
But no one comes close to Bedard. He will be the first choice in Nashville on June 28.
To Montréal? The recent problems of Canadians are giving more and more life to that possibility. Let’s bet Bedard wouldn’t say no to joining Roy in the CH organization, calling him “one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with. »
Somewhere in his office, Kent Hughes is crossing his fingers.
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