Welcome to our final edition of the 2023 World Junior Championship predictions. We have taken an in-depth look at each game in the Canadian Maritimes. We’ll try to give you the information you need to get an edge on this final match. The Gold medal matchup will be between the host Canadians and Team Czechia. Be sure to check out our other World Junior Championship Predictions for the bronze medal game between the USA and Sweden.
2023 World Junior Championship Predictions
Canada vs Czechia
The rivalry between Czechia and Canada is a historic one. The last time the World Junior Gold medal was decided between the two teams was in 1985. At that time, the tournament was a seven-game-round robin style. Coincidentally enough, the then (Czechoslovakia) team faced Canada on the last day of the competition to decide the winner. The game ended in a 2-2 draw, and Canada was awarded the gold in favour of the goal differential. Another historic matchup between the countries for gold was in the 1948 Winter Olympics from St. Moritz, Switzerland. Canada won gold that time as well. However, one of the most memorable matchups between the teams was, the 1998 semi-finals at the Nagano Winter Olympics. This time, with Wayne Gretzky not selected as a shooter, Dominik Hasek turned aside the Canadian shooters. They would move on to and eventually win the Gold Medal game.
This matchup in the 2023 World Junior Hockey finals has all the makings of another historic game. Both teams survived intense semi-final contests to emerge in the Gold medal showdown. Czechia’s David Jiricek (Columbus Blue Jackets) scored with just 39 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 1-1. Then, star forward, Jiri Kulich (Buffalo Sabres) scored in overtime to get past Sweden 2-1. Meanwhile, for Canada, Thomas Milic stole the show early and often until the top liners Connor Bedard and Joshua Roy (Montreal Canadiens) got the offence rolling. The USA was outshooting Canada 9-0 at one point. What’s more, they went up 2-0 at 10:30 of the first period thanks to Kenny Connors (Los Angeles Kings). However, this was Canada’s night, as they stormed back with six unanswered goals, including two goals and two assists from Joshua Roy. Milic ended up turning aside 43 of 45 shots for the victory.
Team Canada Keys to Victory
For Canada, this game offers them the opportunity for revenge following the 5-2 defeat to Czechia in the Boxing Day classic. Since that game, Canada has gotten on a roll offensively, in the net, and as a unit. At the outset of the tournament, there was a debate about the goal between Benjamin Gaudreau (San Jose Sharks) and the undrafted Thomas Milic. However, after Gaudreau allowed all five goals to Czechia, he was pulled in favour of Milic. Milic stopped the final 10 shots in that game and has been hot ever since. Heading into the last game, he sits 4th in the tournament with a .934 SV%.
Team Czechia Important Contributors
When we talk about what it will take for Czechia to win the game, just stay the course. They have great depth on defence and game plan effectively to push the puck up the ice. One key defender is current Regina Pat teammate of Bedard, Stanislav Svozil (Columbus Blue Jackets). He is a big game player recording one goal and seven assists for eight points in the tournament thus far. Once their defence has frustrated their opponents, this allows their game beakers to go on the attack. An impressive six players have already secured a point in a game clip for the tournament recording seven points. Two big distributors of the puck up-front are Jakub Brabenec (Vegas Golden Knights) and Matyas Sapovaliv (Vegas Golden Knights) with six assists a piece. Their top snipers (with goal totals) are Kulich (six) and Gabriel Szturc (five) which Canada will have to keep a close eye on.
Canada’s top-line and power play will continue its hot streak in this Gold medal showdown. Look for Bedard to add to his Team Canada record-breaking totals of nine goals, 14 assists, and 23 points (each of which is a Canadian tournament record). Dylan Guenther (Arizona Coyotes) has chipped in five goals, all of which have come on the power play. Czechia and their ability to shut down skilled forwards will put up a solid fight. However, the forward group on Canada is too deep and will game plan based on their previous loss. The sustained pressure will eventually cause turnovers, of which Canada’s skill will find twine.
Prediction: Team Canada Wins 4-1.