David Jiricek tied it with 39 seconds left in regulation, Jiri Kulich scored late in overtime and the Czech Republic stunned Sweden 2-1 on Wednesday to advance to the world junior hockey title game.
The Czech Republic will face the winner of the night semifinal between the United States and Canada. The Czechs reached the final for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.
“I said before the tournament we have one of the best teams here,” said elated Czech forward Jakub Brabenec. “One of the best Czech teams in 20 years. I believe.”
Buffalo first-rounder Kulich averted a shootout, cutting from the right side to the slot and lifting the puck over goalie Carl Lindbom’s right shoulder with 50 seconds left in the 10-minute extra period.
“It was amazing, all the emotions,” said Czech forward Matyas Sapovaliv. “We were so happy. After 20 years for the Czech Republic, it will be amazing. We will see if it’s Canada or United States, but I’m excited. I’d probably laugh if you told me before the tournament we’d play for gold!”
CZECHIA IS PLAYING FOR GOLD FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2001!!!
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 4, 2023
In regulation with goalie Tomas Suchanek off for an extra attacker, Jiricek ripped a one-timer past Lindbom from the left point.
Suchanek made 21 saves, allowing only Ludvig Jansson’s second-period goal. Lindbom stopped 29 shots.
The Czechs now have 35 goals, more than at any of their World Juniors except 1995 (43 goals in seven games). Whichever North American nation they face in the final, they’ll need all the firepower they’ve got.