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World juniors: Czechia into gold medal game after stunning Sweden late

The Czechs will play in the gold medal game at the world juniors for the first time since 2001 as the team's improbable run rolls on.

Czechia's magical run at the world juniors isn't over yet. (CP Photos)
Czechia's magical run at the world juniors isn't over yet. (CP Photos) (The Canadian Press)

Breakout blueliner David Jiricek tied Wednesday's semifinal with just 39 seconds remaining in regulation before Jiri Kulich scored the game-winner late in overtime as Czechia edged Sweden in dramatic fashion to advance to the gold medal game at the 2023 world juniors.

Ludvig Jansson notched the only goal for Sweden, who looked destined to advance to their first gold-medal game since 2018 until a third-period barrage from the Czechs forced the Swedes on their heels before Jiricek ripped a one-timer through the legs of netminder Carl Lindbom to give Czechia new life.

Hell of a celly here, too.

Both teams had their chances to end it during a tense 9-plus minutes of 3-on-3 overtime, with Sweden coming within literal centimetres of a finals berth, nearly squeaking one through the wickets of Czech goaltender Tomas Suchanek — who made 21 saves for Czechia in the win.

Kulich sent Czechia to their first gold medal game in 22 years when he cut hard to the net from his off-wing with under a minute to go in the extra frame and deposited one past Lindbom for his fifth goal of the tourney — and arguably the biggest of his career so far.

The wild win gives the Czechs their first finals berth at the world juniors since 2001 when they captured the country's last gold medal — capturing back-to-back tournament titles after also winning it in 2000. With the oldest player on this Czech squad being born in 2003, not a single member of this team was even alive when Czechia last won the event.

Czechia will try to put a cherry on top of an improbable run when they face host and defending champion Canada, who they beat to kick off the tournament, in the gold medal game on Thursday.

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