• January 29, 2023

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Bedard sets 5 records, posts OT winner as Canada tops Slovakia, advances to world junior semis

Connor Bedard made one opponent miss. And another. And another.

The breathtaking 17-year-old then calmly slid the puck home to set off wild celebrations and send his country to the semifinals at the world junior hockey championship.

Bedard scored at 5:17 of overtime on a brilliant, jaw-dropping individual effort Monday as the tournament hosts defeated Slovakia 4-3.

The extraordinary talent deked his way past three Slovaks before backhanding his eighth goal of the event to blow the roof off a red-clad Scotiabank Centre.

“I always want the puck,” Bedard said. “It’s still hockey, I’m still out there doing what I love. The moment’s big. But I’ve done that same move, I’ve done the same shot I took a million times in my basement in practice, by myself on the ice.

“I’m out there playing hockey.”

At an absolutely astounding level.

“I’m kind of calling for it,” Canadian defenseman Brandt Clarke said of the highlight-reel OT sequence. “But I see him burn the first guy, see him burn the second guy, see him burn the third guy and then go to the backhand on the goalie.

“That was one of the craziest moments I’ve ever been a part of.”

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.

“It’s hard to describe what he means for our team,” said goaltender Thomas Milic, who made 24 saves, including a couple huge stops to keep his team alive. “It’s almost like he’s pressing random buttons on the Xbox controller coming up with some of these dangles. You never know what he’s going to do next. He keeps surprising.”

“I think [Bedard’s] from another world,” stated Slovak captain Simon Nemec.

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.

Libor Nemec, with two, and Robert Baco replied for Slovakia, which got 52 stops from Adam Gajan.

“Played a great game,” Simon Nemec said. “Best game in the tournament.”

Czechia trounced Switzerland 9-1 to set up the other semifinal against Sweden, which beat Finland 3-2.

With Simon Nemec off in the penalty box for a cross-check on Bedard late in the third, 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.

“I thought it went in,” Bedard said of the Petrovsky chance. “I was about to start crying on the bench. That was ridiculous. I was so scared.”

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 defenseman Pavol Funtek turned the puck over.

That pushed the centre for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats past Eric Lindros for top stop on Canada’s all-time list with 34 points at the men’s under-20 event.

The North Vancouver, B.C., product has also passed 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 found Othmann, who in turn fed a falling Guenther.

Steve Carr

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