Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Canucks World Juniors Recap: Lekkerimäki scores as Sweden books a spot in semis following a tightly fought victory over the Swiss
By Dave Hall1 month ago
In a tightly contested matchup, Sweden, led by the Vancouver Canucks’ trio of prospects, secured a spot in the semi-finals after defeating Switzerland 3-2 in overtime.
The victory keeps Sweden’s quest for their first Gold Medal since 2012 alive and guarantees the host team a shot at a medal.
It began early, just 94 seconds in, where Sweden opened the scoring to grab a quick lead. With a secondary assist, the goal put Elias Pettersson on the scoresheet for the first time this tournament.
Later in the period, the Swiss did what you simply cannot do against a team with a 42.86% success rate – took a penalty.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki, as he has done all tournament, made them pay immediately, firing home his fourth of the tournament, third on the man advantage, to double their lead heading into the dressing room after 20 minutes.
The second period showcased what Sweden had done best all tournament long when enjoying a lead, shutting down and closing out the Swiss offenders.
Despite a fairly dominant 15-minute stretch, Sweden slipped up, and the Swiss made a strong late-period push, leading to a goal which would cut the lead in half.
This was Swedish netminder Hugo Havelid’s first conceded goal of the tournament.
In typical World Junior fashion, the third period was filled with dramatics.
The Swedes began the period with a power play after the Swiss took an unfortunate “delay of game” penalty late in the second period that spilled into the third period. The Swiss successfully killed the penalty, and the game remained a 2-1 game.
Then, midway through the final frame, the unthinkable happened. Switzerland’s Gregory Weber made a nice zone entry, dropping it to Nick Meile, who made no mistake, firing a labelled shot past a screened Havelid.
With the game deadlocked, a late-period power play was awarded to Sweden, and it was quite controversial.
Despite putting their whistles away for much of the final minutes, letting both teams get away with extensive infractions, the referees elected to call a slashing penalty on the Swiss goalscorer, Nick Meile.
It was originally assessed as a major, simply to allow a review of the play, but was brought down to a minor, sending the tournament’s most deadly power plays to the man advantage, yet again.
Luckily, Sweden couldn’t convert, and this game headed to a nail-biting overtime period.
The 10-minute overtime saw both teams trading chances, but it was Sweden’s power play that eventually made the difference. Jonathan Lekkerimäki set up Axel Sandin Pellikka for the game-winning goal, and you could feel the electric sigh of relief as the home crowd erupted.
With the victory, Sweden will advance to the semi-finals and guarantee themselves a shot at a medal. They will take on Czechia, who stunned team Canada with 11 seconds remaining in the third period, on Thursday at 6:00 AM (PST).
Jonathan Lekkerimäki remained true to his typical tournament form, driving tons of offensive opportunities and leading the charge for the Swedes.
Highlighting his incredible release, Lekkerimäki doubled Sweden’s lead in the first period with an incredible shot between the defenders’ legs.
At this point, it’s become quite clear that he cannot be given this amount of time and space. His release is world-class, and if he is given an inch, he will take a mile.
With four goals, he stands as the third-highest goalscorer and leads the entire field with three power-play goals.
Throughout the game, Lekkerimäki remained relentless, generating numerous high-danger opportunities and came close to sealing the victory in the third period.
In overtime, as the team went back to the man advantage, he delivered the game-clinching goal, as he handed it off to Axel Sandin Pellikka, who made no mistake in calling the match in overtime.
He finished the game with nine shots – yes, nine – and now sits third in that regard with 21 through five games.
In total, Lekkerimäki contributed a goal, an assist, and nine shots, logging 22:26 of ice time in the game. His consistent offensive presence has been, and will continue to be, a key cog in Sweden’s success in the World Junior Championships.
Despite logging 21:22 of ice time, ranking third among Swedish defenders, Tom Willander had a relatively quiet game.
Following two consecutive games with a point, he managed just one shot on net and didn’t create many notable plays.
However, he made a crucial defensive play, with his team on its heels.
Facing pressure with the Swiss on the power play, Willander dropped and disrupted a potential back-door play, preventing a clear one-timer opportunity for the opposing Swiss player.
With the team just recently conceding the game-tying goal, Sweden was on a bit of a downward spiral and the Swiss had locked in some good momentum. While time remained on the clock, this was a pivotal point in the period, which could have easily turned the tides the other way.
He picked up one shot on goal over 21:22 of ice time.
Elias Pettersson picked up his first point in the tournament, off of a secondary assist, in the opening minutes of the game.
This is great for his tracking statistics and offensive confidence, but at the end of the day, it certainly does not matter. As we have harped on all tournament long, the 6-foot-4 rearguard is contributing on so many levels on his end, and point production is merely a cherry on top.
Shortly after his assist, he returned to his typical behaviour, stepping heavily into his opponents and offering constant intimation for the Swiss.
For the second consecutive match, he skated less than 20 minutes, and it’s clear that the Swedes are using their offensive dynamos much more frequently in these tight-knit matches.
Nonetheless, Pettersson continued to impress with his physical presence and skated 19:01 with one shot and an assist in the game.
Sweden will enjoy a day off, before taking on the Czechs in the semi-final on Thursday.
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