Thomas Milic made 24 saves on 26 shots as Team Canada defeated Czechia 3-2 in overtime in the finals of the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championships Thursday, Jan. 5, in Halifax. (Twitter/@SIASport)

Thomas Milic made 24 saves on 26 shots as Team Canada defeated Czechia 3-2 in overtime in the finals of the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championships Thursday, Jan. 5, in Halifax. (Twitter/@SIASport)

North Okanagan couple rejoice as grandson goalie wins World Juniors gold

Thomas Milic backstopped Team Canada to a 3-2 overtime victory in the finals

Lumby residents Pat and Bob Pointer were on the edge of their seats watching Team Canada take on Czechia in the final of the World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax Thursday night, Jan. 5.

Like many Canadians, they were anxious to see their country lift the trophy for the second World Junior tournament in a row, but unlike most Canadians, they had skin in the game: their grandson, Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Thomas Milic, stood between the pipes.

The game came down to the wire as Czechia scored two third-period goals to send the game to overtime, but in the end, Milic and his Team Canada teammates left the arena with gold medals around their necks.

Milic, from Coquitlam, made 24 saves on 26 shots in the win, which came thanks to an overtime goal by Dylan Guenther.

The game followed a thrilling match against the U.S. in the semifinals, a 6-2 win for Canada that was a lot closer than the score suggested. TSN hockey analyst Craig Button had high praise for Milic following that game.

“It’s one of the best goaltending performances I’ve seen by a Canadian goaltender ever,” Button said.

READ MORE: Guenther’s golden goal lifts Canada past Czechia 3-2 in OT for 20th world junior title

For Pat and Bob, seeing their grandson lift the first-place trophy elicited “an awesome feeling of elation,” as Pat said, a feeling that was hard to put into words.

Years of dedication to goaltending have led to this golden moment.

“I have a picture of him when he was eight years old, and he knew then he wanted to be a goalie and like he always says, he’s always going to try to be the best he can, and he has proved it,” Pat said.

There were some tense moments, such as when Czechia tied the game late, but that only made the payoff that much sweeter.

Watching the game from home was stressful for a couple whose grandson plays a pivotal position; hockey is a sport filled with momentum shifts, and goalies bear the brunt of moments when the opposition scores. The Lumby couple were at the mercy of the tide of the game and the players on the ice.

“I had to keep telling myself I can’t change the outcome,” Pat said.

Pat and Bob tune into the World Juniors every year, and they weren’t going to miss a single Team Canada game this year.

“We make sure our schedule goes around the games, whatever we’re doing,” Pat said.

What impressed Pat most about her grandson’s performance was the way he handled the pressure.

“If something isn’t right, he gets crashed or some darn thing, he doesn’t retaliate, he just keeps his composure.”

Off the ice, Pat said Milic is a “fine young man” with a great sense of humour, and always has a smile on his face.

“He’s just a happy kid, he’s where he wants to be in his life and you can’t ask for more than that.”

The 19-year-old goaltender who plays for the Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League (WHL) is currently undrafted, but his performance at the World Juniors has likely caught the attention of National Hockey League scouts.

“There’s different ways to get to the NHL, and that’s been his dream, to get to the NHL, so in some ways maybe it’s good because he might get more of a choice on where he can go,” Pat said, adding he’s had his chances of making it to the show, such as joining the Minnesota Wild’s training camp in the summer.

“They’re definitely watching him so we’ll see now that they’ve seen what he can do.”

Milic is joining his Thunderbirds teammates today, and they take on the Regina Pats tonight at 7 p.m. It’s a matchup that pits Milic against his Team Canada teammate, 17-year-old phenom Connor Bedard, though it’s unclear if either Bedard or Milic will be in the lineup given it’s a travel day and they just played games on back-to-back days.

“But he’s on his way there with his gold medal around his neck,” said Pat.

READ MORE: Two Kelowna Rockets coming home with gold and silver from World Juniors


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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