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Going for Gold: Canada Beats USA, Will Play for Gold Thursday

Photos courtesy of Matt Zambonin/IIHF

Going for Gold: Canada Beats USA, Will Play for Gold Thursday

Team Canada has earned its way to a gold medal game appearance in the 2023 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.

On Wednesday evening, Canada faced off against geographical rival USA in a semifinal showdown from Halifax in the most thrilling contest yet from the 2023 running of the annual tourney.

With the winner moving on to face Czechia the final, and the loser set to battle Sweden in the bronze medal game, the stakes were already as high as could be for both dominant hockey nations.

Canada came out sluggish, and the USA jumped ahead to a quick two-goal lead just 10:30 into the game. But it was all Thomas Milic and Canada after that. Although serving as the host country, the Canadians were the visitor – thanks to USA’s better record through round robin play – but the Scotiabank Centre certainly was packed to the brim with red and white faithful.

The Canadians bounced back with six unanswered goals, scoring once before the opening frame came to a close – another tally from the sensational Connor Bedard – before knotting the game at twos just 47 seconds into the middle stanza. Canada potted another two markers in the second period to pull ahead 4-2 through 40 minutes of play.

Despite a heavy USA attack, netminder Milic and the Canadians held off their foes, scoring the fifth goal midway through period No. 3 to jump ahead 5-2. An empty-netter sealed the deal for Canada, as the team punched its ticket to the gold medal game for the fourth-straight year.

The game wasn’t without excitement, as the Americans had two goals overturned following successful goaltender interference challenges from the Canadian bench. The first involved contact between Jackson Blake and Milic, moments before the American forward put the puck into the net, while the second instance saw Rutger McGroarty push Milic’s pad and the puck into the net, thus prompting the second successful challenge.

Milic ended the night with 43 saves on 45 shots, while Trey Augustine made 31 stops on the 36 pucks he faced for the Americans.

Connor Bedard collected points No. 22 and 23 of the tournament, including his ninth goal.

As the winner of the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship, Canada will look for its first repeat gold performance since 2009 – its final win in a string of five-straight gold medals.

The Americans will face Sweden in the bronze medal game at 1:30 PM central time on Thursday, while Canada will do battle with the Czechs at 5:30 PM.

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