Canada is off to the semifinals at the world junior hockey championship in Halifax.
Connor Bedard scored at 5:17 of overtime on an incredible individual effort as the tournament hosts defeated Slovakia 4-3 on Monday.
The extraordinary 17-year-old deked his way past three Slovaks before backhanding his eighth goal of the event to blow the roof off a red-clad Scotiabank Centre.
Bedard also scored early in the first — setting four records in the process — before adding an assist on Canada’s second goal to establish another national mark.
Dylan Guenther and Zack Ostapchuk provided the rest of the offence for the Canadians who will face the United States on Wednesday after the Americans thumped Germany 11-1 elsewhere in quarterfinal action.
Thomas Milic stopped 24 shots to record the victory for Canada.
Libor Nemec, with two, and Robert Baco replied for Slovakia, which got 52 stops from Adam Gajan.
Czechia trounced Switzerland 9-1 to set up the other semifinal against Sweden, which beat Finland 3-2.
The overtime hero in Halifax! What a night for Connor Bedard! OH CANADA🇨🇦!!! #WorldJuniors #CANSVK @hockeycanada pic.twitter.com/BFMIwwsaEx
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 3, 2023
With Simon Nemec off in the penalty box for a cross-check on Canadian phenom Bedard late in the third period, Shane Wright hit the crossbar in overtime on a shot that went off Gajan’s pad.
Milic then made a terrific glove stop on Servac Petrovsky to keep his team alive before Bedard added his name to Canada’s world junior lore.
The presumptive top pick at the 2023 NHL draft, Bedard opened the scoring just over six minutes into the first on a breakaway after Slovak defenceman Pavol Funtek turned the puck over to Logan Stankoven.
The Dallas Stars prospect quickly found Bedard, who went from his backhand to his forehand before firing a bullet past Gajan’s glove to ignite Scotiabank Centre with his seventh goal of the tournament.
That pushed the centre for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats past Eric Lindros for top stop on Canada’s all-time record with 34 points at the men’s under-20 event.
The North Vancouver product also topped Jordan Eberle for the most combined goals at the world juniors by a Canadian with 16.
Canada went up 2-0 on a power play with five minutes gone in the second when Bedard passed to Othmann, who in turn fed a falling Guenther for his fifth.
Bedard, who now has 34 points in 14 combined world junior games, set a new record for the most points by a Canadian in a single tournament with 21, owns the national mark with 13 assists.
He also passed Jaromir Jagr for the most points by a player aged 18 or younger.
The Slovaks came off the mat and responded on a power play of their own when Libor Nemec tipped home a point shot for his second.
Canada restored its two-goal lead just over three minutes later when Ostapchuk fired past Gajan’s blocker on a 3-on-1 break for his second.
But Slovakia got back to within one when Peter Repcik showed great patience to outwait two sliding Canadians off the rush and circling Milic’s net to find Baco for his second.
Canadian defenceman Ethan Del Mastro hit the post early in the third period before Gajan scrambled to cover the loose puck and keep the score 3-2 before Zach Dean came close on a breakaway.
Caeden Bankier then hit another post on a break for the pre-tournament hosts.
Milic then made an incredible stop on a made scramble on Adam Sykora, shooting out a pad before Canadian defenceman Tyson Hinds stopped the followup attempt with his glove.
But Nemec scored his second of the game moments later with under nine minutes to go on Milic’s doorstep after an icing.
The goaltender then shot out his glove to deny Martin Misiak on a great opportunity.
Bedard had a great chance to put Canada ahead late in the third, but Funtek blocked his effort from in close.
Canada, which hammered Slovakia 11-1 at the pandemic-delayed August world juniors and 6-1 in pre-tournament play, now has 16 victories in 17 all-time meetings — with the only blemish a 0-0 tie in 1999.
EBERLE TIPS HIS CAP
The Seattle Kraken forward congratulated Bedard on passing him on Canada’s goal list in a pre-recorded message.
“You’re an unbelievable player to watch,” Eberle, a hero at the 2009 tournament, said in a video posted to Hockey Canada’s official Twitter account. “I’ve been following your career since you got drafted to my hometown and playing with the Pats.
“Enjoy the experience.”
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
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