FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Xavier Parent (Blainville, Que./Halifax, QMJHL) banked in the game-winning goal on the power play with 90 seconds left, sending Canada Red to the gold medal game at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge after a 3-2 semifinal win over the Czech Republic on Friday night.
Red will face either the United States or Canada White in the final Saturday (9 p.m. MT/6 p.m. PT, TSN).
With overtime looming, a late too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty put the Canadians on the man advantage. Great work at the blue-line by Justin Barron (Halifax, N.S./Halifax, QMJHL) and Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Y.T./Lethbridge, WHL) kept the puck alive before it made its way down the boards to Parent.
He spun at the side of the net and threw a blind backhand in front that hit a Czech skate and trickled past goaltender Lukas Parik to send North Peace Arena into a frenzy.
It is the third year in a row a Canadian team will play for gold; White earned the title in 2015 in Dawson Creek, B.C., while Black was edged by Sweden in the final last year in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Czechs were first to the scoreboard less than eight minutes in when Adam Najman outraced a Canadian defender and snapped a quick shot past Red netminder Luke Cavallin (Greely, Ont./Flint, OHL), but Alexis Lafrenière (Saint-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) tied the game at 15:43 when a centering pass from Brandon Coe (Ajax, Ont./North Bay, OHL) hit his skate and beat Parik.
Lafrenière played the set-up role on the go-ahead marker in the second period; he dropped a pass to Nick Wong (Orton, Ont./Oshawa, OHL), who wired a shot past Parik to put Red ahead for the first time.
This time it was the Czechs’ turn to equalize late in the period. Jaromir Pytlik blazed down the right wing and snapped a quick shot that beat Cavallin to the glove side, sending the teams to the intermission tied 2-2.
Red held a 32-27 advantage in shots on goal in an evenly-matched game – the teams had 11 shots apiece in the first period, and nine each in the third.
The defeat means the Czechs will play for bronze against the loser of the U.S.-White semi on Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT, TSN2).