Former Trail Smoke Eaters forward Kent Johnson scored the most dramatic goal of his hockey career on Saturday, lifting Team Canada to a 3-2 overtime victory over Finland in the gold medal game at the 2022 World Junior Championships in Edmonton.
Johnson netted the golden goal on his own rebound after a behind-the-back pass from Kamloops product Logan Stankoven just 3:20 into the extra frame. The win gives Canada its 19th gold medal and 34th medal overall at the World Juniors.
“I take passes on my backhand all the time and I usually try to score on the five-hole, but I had a lot of time and I was able to bang home the rebound,” said Johnson in a release. “It was super exciting overtime period, but not really the situation we wanted to be in after going up 2-0.
“It means the world to all of us [to win gold]. It has been a crazy couple of months, but everyone wanted to win so bad and I am happy that we were able to do it at home.”
Joshua Roy opened the scoring just over 11 minutes into the first period, jamming home a rebound off a Mason McTavish shot. Saint John product William Dufour added to Canada’s lead, firing a wrist shot past Finnish goaltender Juha Jatkola 47 seconds into the middle frame to make it 2-0.
The Finns erased the lead with goals six minutes apart in the opening 11 minutes of the third period, with Aleski Heimosalmi and Joakim Kemell finding the back of the net to force overtime.
Following the gold medal game, McTavish was named Most Valuable Player and Top Forward after leading the tournament with eight goals and 17 points.
Yet it was a defensive play in the opening minutes of overtime that saved the game and set up the golden goal. A Finns shot eluded Team Canada goalie Dylan Garand but McTavish swept the puck off his own goal line, setting up a 2-on-1 break for Stankoven and Johnson.
“My stick was in the right place at the right time to knock that puck away from our net [in overtime],” said McTavish. “Looking back, I am not sure why I was behind [Garand], but I am happy it worked out. Next thing I knew I was on the bench and Kent [Johnson] was on a breakaway.
“It has been a long journey to get to this moment, and it is so special to win it with this group of guys who put in so much hard work since last summer. I am incredibly proud to be Canadian.”
Dylan Garand was stellar in the Canadian goal, making 29 saves.
Johnson also scored a goal and added two assists in the 5-2 semifinal win against the Czechs to set up the gold medal game. He tallied three goals and nine points in seven games at the 2022 World Juniors.
The Port Moody native played two seasons with the Smoke Eaters in the BCHL from 2018-20 scoring 61 goals and 147 points in 109 games. He was drafted fifth overall in the 2021 draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Canada finished the preliminary round atop Group A with a perfect 4-0 record after wins over Latvia (5-2), Slovakia (11-1), Czechia (5-1) and Finland (6-3).