A record-smashing world junior hockey tournament for North Vancouver's Connor Bedard ended with MVP honours and a second straight gold medal as Canada scored a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the Czech Republic Thursday in Halifax.
The Canadians opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss against that same Czech team on Boxing Day, but they wouldn't be beaten again, ripping off six straight wins to claim gold.
Dylan Guenther was the hero in the final, picking up two goals and an assist, including the game-winner in overtime. Guenther and Shane Wright led the way early as Canada battled to a 2-0 lead. Coquitlam's Thomas Milic was strong in net once again, following his dominant performance against the United States in a 6-2 semifinal win.
But the Czechs stunned the home crowd in the third period, scoring two goals less than a minute apart to tie the game, sending it to overtime. That set up Guenther to claim the victory, slotting home the winner on a cross-ice pass from Joshua Roy.
Bedard has been making headlines throughout the tournament, starting with a seven-point game against Germany, scoring a hat trick and adding four assists to tie a Canadian record. He followed that up with a six-point performance against Austria, then added four assists in a New Year's Eve win over Sweden
His heroics hit new heights in the playoff round, with Bedard picking up two goals and an assist in a 4-3 overtime win against Slovakia. Bedard's big night included an instant classic game-winning goal in overtime, with the 17-year-old dancing past two defenders before deking past Slovakia goalie Adam Gajan and sliding the puck into the net to send Canada to the semifinals. That night also saw Bedard set Team Canada records for career points and assists at the tournament.
Bedard was named the tournament's top forward, a tournament all-star and the tournament's MVP following the final. He ended with nine goals, 13 assists and 23 points for the tournament, setting new Canadian records for points and assists in a single world juniors. He finished nine points ahead of Logan Cooley of the U.S., who was second in the tournament with 14 points.
Could it have been anyone else?— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) January 6, 2023
1⃣4⃣ assists (new 🇨🇦 record)
2⃣3⃣ points (new 🇨🇦 record)
Connor Bedard is your #WorldJuniors MVP (+ Top Forward and Media All-Star ⭐️). pic.twitter.com/ymJPX3A2vM
Bedard, however, wasn't interested in his personal accolades.
“I don’t want to talk about myself right now," he said in a TSN on-ice interview moments after the final goal. "We’re not talking about me. We just won the biggest tournament in the world. And man I love this group; I love this country.”
Others around the country were more free with their praise though. Bedard's performance heading into the final was so impressive that it spawned a cheeky campaign aimed at changing the name of Burrard Inlet to Bedard Inlet.
Bedard stepped into the national spotlight when he became the first ever player to earn exceptional status early entry in the WHL, and he has since surpassed all the expectations put on him by that label. He will now return to the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. He is eligible for the NHL entry draft this summer, and is the heavy favourite to be picked first overall.