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Back-to-Back: Canada is Golden Again

Photo by Matt Zambonin/IIHF

Back-to-Back: Canada is Golden Again

Once again, Canada is golden. And for a second-straight year, it took an extra period to find a winner.

And for the first time since 2009, there is a repeat champion at the annual holiday showcase.

On Thursday evening, the top under-20 hockey players from across Canada showed up in Halifax, NS. for the final game of the 2023 running of the IIHF event. And the 10,000-plus hometown fans jammed into Scotiabank Centre walked away happy, for the second time in half a year.

Having taken the gold medal at last year’s ‘summer’ World Juniors, Canada did it again just six months later, topping Czechia by way of a 3-2 final – a game that needed an extra 6:22 to determine a champion.

Dylan Guenther scored the golden goal for Canada, his second of the game midway into the three-on-three period.

Canadian netminder Thomas Milic turned aside 24 saves, while captain Shane Wright and fellow NHL regular Dylan Guenther scored early for the Canadians, en route to the narrow victory.

Canada outshot the Czechs 38-26 in the game, while Canada’s special teams contributed heavily, with its power play going one for two and its penalty kill going a perfect three for three on the night.

The Canadians opened the scoring with a beautiful shot from Dylan Guenther on an early power play, as he wired a howitzer past the Czech goaltender Tomas Suchanek.

The scored remained 1-0 through 20 minutes of play, with Canada owning a 10-6 shot advantage entering the second period.

Then it was Shane Wright who got the next tally, an even-strength marker for the Canadians.

Captain clutch was able to deliver when his team needed it most. After a tough showing in his past outing, Wright walked right past two Czech defenders, before dangling his way to the goalmouth and roofing a backhander high, short-side in spectacular fashion, giving the home team a two-goal cushion just 4:35 into the middle stanza.

With Canada owning a 2-0 lead and a 22-16 command in shots, it appeared to be smooth sailing to a second-straight gold medal.

“Obviously, it feels good to score and chip in offensively, in a big game like this,” captain Wright said following the second period. “That crowd is incredible, there is not much like it. It’s one of the best, if not the best crowds that I’ve ever been able to play in front of; what an experience.”

But Czechia had other plans.

In a span of 54 seconds, the Czechs banged out two quick goals, completely changing the game’s momentum in what appeared to be the blink of an eye.

With Canada unable to clear the puck, Czechia’s top scorer Jiri Kulich cleaned up the rebound off an Eduord Sale shot that found the post. He brought a hush over the crowd with 7:30 left to play, as Canadian fans quickly took a glimpse at the scoreboard.

Then, following another poor clearing attempt – this one by Brandt Clarke – the Czechs tied the game with their second goal in less than one minute of game time. A wimpy shot from Tomas Hamara was deflected by Jakub Kos, before the puck hit the leg of Canadian defender Ethan Del Mastro and dribbling past Milic’s outstretched leg and into the net, knotting the game at twos with just 6:36 to play.

An anxious final six minutes saw the Czechs take over the game flow, but Canada was able to hold on until the break before.

What was set to follow was a 20 minute period of three-on-three, sudden death overtime.

What actually occurred was 6:22 of back-and-forth, edge of your seat action. After skating up and down the ice at least 10 times each way, the Canadians caught a lucky break and turned up ice on a two-on-one with Joshua Roy feeding Guenther for the winner.

Their mates leapt the boards as the arena exploded louder than it likely ever has, with players mobbing both the goal scorer, the setup man and the team’s backstop.

The final order of business was awarding the player of the game to Guenther, the gold medals to the Canadian players the World Junior Hockey Championship trophy to Team Canada and sing the song every young Canadian had been waiting a year to sing: ‘O Canada’. And after 10 full days of competition, the Canadians were able to defend their title on home ice, remaining golden for another 365 days.


Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.

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