5 Takeaways From Canada’s 6-2 Semi-Final Win Over Team USA

Team Canada will play for gold for the fourth straight year at the World Juniors after a 6-2 win over Team USA. After falling behind 2-0 early, the Canadians scored sixth unanswered en route to a spot in the gold medal game against Team Czechia. Here are five takeaways from the game.

Roy-Stankoven-Bedard Line Shines

Ever since being put together after Canada’s opening night loss to Czechia, the line of Joshua Roy, Logan Stankoven and Connor Bedard has been unstoppable. Against the Americans, they scored four of Canada’s six goals and finished the night with eight points combined. They were so dominant that the trio was named the top three players for Team Canada for the tournament.

While each player stepped up, it was Roy who was the hero for Canada against Team USA. He scored twice, including the empty netter and assisted on both Stankoven’s and Bedard’s goals. Whether it was at even strength or on the penalty kill, the Montreal Canadiens prospect shined and propelled Canada to the gold medal game.

Thomas Milic Stands On His Head

Thomas Milic had his best performance of the tournament stopping 43 of the 45 shots he faced. The Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender bounced back after giving up two goals in the first and guided Canada to a win. He was composed and made some highlight reel saves en route to being named Canada’s player of the game.

Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship

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Coming into the tournament, there were questions about whether Canada’s goaltending would be strong enough to guide them to the gold medal game. Those questions have now been answered as Milic has provided strong goaltending all tournament, highlighted by his performance against the USA. After being passed over in the draft the last two years, his performance at this year’s World Juniors should garner him plenty of interest from NHL teams.

Canadian Challenges Save The Day Twice

Thanks to two successful goaltender interference challenges, Canada was able to maintain their lead against the Americans. The first came midway through the second when it was determined that Jackson Blake was in the crease and made contact with Milic, which prevented him from making a save. While many American fans disagreed with the call as Blake had possession of the puck and was driving the net, the IIHF rules are very straightforward when it comes to contact with a goaltender in the crease, so the goal was called off.

The second challenge came 36 seconds into the third when Rutger McGroarty drove the net and scored to make it 4-3. This goal was a little less controversial as it was clear he pushed Milic’s pad into the net. Whoever decided it was the right move to challenge these two plays was by far the team’s MVP of the game.

A Canadian Wolverine Takes Down The USA

Adam Fantilli had his best game of the tournament as the University of Michigan Wolverines’ forward scored the game-winner, assisted on Brandt Clarke’s goal, and had two shots on goal for Canada in the win. A projected top-five pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, the goal was his second of the tournament, with the first coming against Austria during the preliminary round. Despite struggling to provide offence and being demoted to the fourth line early on, he continually played hard and was rewarded against the Americans.

Related: 2023 World Junior Championship: 2023 Draft Players to Watch

What is great about the win is not only does Fantilli get to play for gold, but he also has bragging rights over four of his teammates. Luke Hughes, McGroarty, Dylan Duke and Gavin Brindley all play for the Wolverines and will now have to play for bronze after his strong performance. While the reunion in Ann Arbor may be a bit awkward, it won’t matter to the Canadian forward if he can walk into the dressing room with a gold medal hanging around his neck.

Sixth Straight Goals For Canada

Canada’s ability to bounce back after being outplayed in the first period speaks to the distance this team has come. Unlike against Czechia in the first game of the tournament, the Canadians were able to battle back, scoring six straight goals en route to a victory. Despite some questionable play defensively, they were able to shut down the Americans’ attack at even strength and on the power play.

Connor Bedard Team Canada
Connor Bedard, Team Canada (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

In the gold medal game, Canada cannot afford to start slow as they did against the United States. While Trey Augustine was fantastic in goal all tournament for the Americans, Tomáš Suchánek has been the tournament’s best goaltender and has experience with this being his fourth game against Canada in his World Juniors career. Czechia has been the best team throughout this entire World Juniors, and it will be a difficult challenge for the Canadians if they need to come back from a multi-goal deficit at any point during the game.

Rematch Set Versus Czechia

The Canadians will now play Czechia for the gold medal at the 2023 World Juniors. These two teams did meet earlier in the tournament, with Czechia pulling out a decisive 5-2 victory. This game will be must-watch hockey as Canada looks to win back-to-back gold while Czechia will be looking for its first championship since 2001.

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