World Junior Ice Hockey champions once again
The Canadian team earned their 20th title at this tournament, with local players breaking long-standing records
Canada hosted its third consecutive International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Ice Hockey Championships after the IIHF banned Russia from all of their competitions in response to the invasion in Ukraine. The tournament started out rough for Canada, as they lost 5-2 to the Czech Republic on Boxing Day. The Czech Republic was able to capitalize on Canada’s weakness which allowed them to have great success against Canada.
Canada then went on to beat Germany 11-2, which showcased a more well-rounded Canadian team and performance. Canada then beat Austria 11-0, highlighting the capabilities that Canada has when they work together as a team. Regina Pats player and North Vancouver native Connor Bedard – who is considered a once-in-a-generation talent – ended up scoring three goals and four assists during Canada’s win against Germany.
He then tallied two goals and four assists during Canada’s win against Austria. On the way to the quarterfinals, Canada beat Sweden 5-1. Bedard ended the game against Sweden with four assists leading into the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, Canada played Slovakia and ended up winning 4-3 in overtime. Slovakia’s performance was incredible against Canada as they were able to exploit Canada’s weaknesses just like the Czech Republic had done in the first game of the tournament against Canada. Unfortunately for Slovakia, Canada was able to win in overtime.
In the game against Slovakia, Bedard had two goals and one assist, which also included the overtime winner. Bedard’s performance against Slovakia was record breaking. He became Canada’s all-time goal leader with 15 goals, Canada’s all-time points leader with 32 points, and Canada’s single-tournament points leader with 19 points.
After the record-breaking performance, Regina local Jordan Eberle congratulated Bedard after he broke Eberle’s record of being Canada’s all-time leading goal scorer. After Canada’s win against Slovakia in the quarterfinals, Canada would go on to play the United States in the semifinals. Canada beat the United States 6-2, however it didn’t come without its controversy.
Canada started the game trailing by 2-0, but were able to bounce back. However, the controversy came when the United States had two disallowed goals. Both goals were disallowed due to goaltender interference. The international rules surrounding goaltender interference are different than that of the IIHF. In accordance with rule 69.1 of the IIHF Rule Book, “Goals should be disallowed only if: an attacking Player, either by their positioning or by a ‘relevant contact,’ impairs the Goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within their Goal Crease or defend their goal; or an attacking Player initiates international or deliberate contact with a Goalkeeping inside or outside of their Goal Crease.”
The first disallowed goal saw the most controversy, as many believed that there was little goaltender obstruction during the US goal. However, the officials saw enough obstruction even after review to disallow the goal. In the finals, Canada ended up playing the Czech Republic again and hoped for a different outcome than their 5-2 loss in the first game of the tournament. This was the first time that the Czech Republic had made the final since 2001, while Canada was hoping for consecutive gold medals for the first time since the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Championships.
The final was intense, with the majority in attendance supporting Canada. Canada led the Czech Republic 1-0 after the first period with a goal from Dylan Guenther. Canada would add to their lead in the second period with a goal from Canada’s captain Shane Wright, who happened to be celebrating his 19th birthday on the day of the finals. However, in the third period, the Czech Republic responded by scoring two goals, which tied the game. The game would end 2-2 in regulation time, causing the game to go into overtime.
Canada would end up scoring in overtime to win the World Junior Championships with a goal from Dylan Guenther. The goal showcased a great build-up play from Canada as Joshua Roy made a move around the Czech defender, then passed the puck across to Guenther who was able to slot it home for Canada.
Bedard was awarded the World Junior MVP of the tournament after his record-breaking performances throughout the tournament. He was also granted the Top Forward award and Media All-Star award for his performance. Bedard finished the tournament with nine goals and 14 assists – which is a new Canadian record – and 23 points, which is also a new Canadian record. The Czech Republic medalled for the first time since 2005 after their outstanding performance throughout the tournament, including both of their games against Canada.
Canada’s championship win is Canada’s 20th title at the World Junior Championships, which is the most of any country, with the former Soviet Union holding only eight titles and the United States and Finland having five titles each. Canada’s performance wasn’t overly consistent, and mistakes led to uncertain moments at times, however Canada was able to strategize and find a way to win.
Bedard will be back with the Regina Pats and alongside his Pats teammate (and Czech Republic team captain) Stanislav Svozil as they finish off their season. Bedard is eligible for the upcoming 2023 National Hockey League Draft and is projected to be the number one draft come draft day. Canada should be proud of their performance and their ability to fight through adversity to accomplish consecutive gold medal performances at the IIHF World Junior Championships. Mark your calendars, because the 48th iteration of the IIHF World Junior Championships will be hosted by Sweden starting on Boxing Day of 2023.