'We had tremendous support here': N.L. family returns home after watching son claim World Junior gold

Trent and Kendra Dean arrive home in St. John's after watching their son Zach win a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2023 World Junior Championships in Halifax.  (Darryl Murphy/CBC - image credit)
Trent and Kendra Dean arrive home in St. John's after watching their son Zach win a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2023 World Junior Championships in Halifax. (Darryl Murphy/CBC - image credit)
Darryl Murphy/CBC
Darryl Murphy/CBC

Things were a little tense for Trent and Kendra Dean of Mount Pearl as they sat on the edges of their seats inside the Scotiabank Centre in downtown Halifax Thursday night.

Their son, Zach Dean, was playing in one of the biggest hockey games of his 20-year life so far, as Canada tussled with Czechia in the gold medal round of the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championships.

Seconds ticked off the clock in the third period. Canada had blown a two-goal lead. Sudden death, three-on-three overtime came calling, and a single goal meant a gold medal after a hard-fought 10-day tournament.

"The World Juniors is something that we always watch together, over the years, as a family. It's something that you want to be there in person to see," Kendra Dean told CBC News just minutes after stepping off of the return flight home to St. John's on Friday.

"But to actually be there in person, when your son is actually there on the ice playing for Team Canada at the World Juniors, it was an amazing experience."

Canadian fans were loud and proud inside the 11,000-seat arena for the duration of the tournament, but Thursday night's game saw them reach another level.

Trent Dean said he hasn't experienced anything like it before.

"It was pretty crazy, I must say. It was awesome," he said.

Hockey Canada/Twitter
Hockey Canada/Twitter

The overtime period saw dangerous opportunities from both benches. Fans held their breath with every play.

Then, it happened.

At 6:22 of the overtime period, Dylan Guenther of Edmonton scored his second goal of the game — one that cemented his name, and those of his teammates, into Canadian hockey history.

"It got a little nerve-racking there toward the end," Trent Dean said. "The Czechs had a very strong team. They were a big, solid team. They could skate and move the puck well."

Strong showing

The Dean's have deep hockey roots in Botwood as well.

Kendra Dean said about 25 people made the journey to Halifax to watch her son play for their country. Many more across Newfoundland and Labrador watched from home, glued to their television sets as Canada pushed its way through the tournament.

The post-game celebrations ran late into Thursday night, she said.

"I think it was the happiest time I've ever seen him in his life. He had a smile from ear to ear," she said.

"We had tremendous support here."

Zach Dean picked up three points in this year's tournament.

He headed back to Quebec Friday morning to rejoin his QMJHL club, the Gatineau Olympiques, for the remainder of the season.

Dean was a first round pick to the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights in 2021.

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