Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Canucks World Juniors Recap: Team Sweden drop their final preliminary game to Finland 5-4 in a shootout
By Dave Hall2 months ago
Standings-wise, this matchup held little significance for Sweden, as they had already secured the top spot in Group A with their prior victory over Canada.
Of course, that did not stop the age-old rivalry between Sweden and Finland from providing its typical buzz and timely theatrics.
Despite a slower start with both teams sizing each other up, the game unfolded as expected, with tons of back-and-fourth action, late-game heroics and an unpredictable finish.
The Finns took an early lead, netting two goals in the opening frame, causing the Swedes to trail for the first time in the tournament.
Heck, this was the first time they had conceded a goal.
The Swedes regrouped between periods and stormed back in the second, engaging in a back-and-forth affair that resulted in four goals, giving them a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes.
This score held up until the final two minutes when Finland capitalized on a rebound, pushing the game into overtime and, ultimately, a shootout.
Despite an initial goal from Jonathan Lekkerimäki, the Swedes failed to score over their next four rounds of the shootout, succumbing 5-4 to Finland, dropping their first loss of the tournament.
While the outcome had no bearing on Sweden’s standing, having secured the top spot, the defeat in their final pre-medal round game against their arch-rivals was undoubtedly a disheartening turn of events.
Looking over at the Vancouver Canucks prospects, all three have left an indelible mark on this tournament. Whether it’s been timely goals, effective defensive efforts, or simply eating incredible amounts of ice, it’s been a strong showing for Canucks fans to enjoy over the holidays.
Once again, Lekkerimäki showcased his effectiveness as one of Sweden’s standout forwards.
In the second period, the sharpshooter capitalized on the power play, showcasing impressive composure and precision as he unleashed a perfectly placed wrist shot that found the post and went in.
When it comes to shooters, there are a select few you don’t want to give this kind of space, and Lekkerimäki is certainly one of them.
This marked his third goal of the tournament and his second on the power play, which, he shares the lead in the tournament.
Despite generating several excellent scoring opportunities, including the team’s best chance in overtime, Lekkerimäki could not find the back of the net before the game progressed to a shootout.
However, as the opening shooter in said shootout, he demonstrated his incredible release with a quickly placed snapped shot, leading to the Swedes’ lone goal in the shootout.
Once again, that is a world-class release.
Lekkerimäki concluded the game with one goal, three shots, and a plus-one rating, logging 21:16 of ice time, the second-highest among forwards.
Over the preliminary round, he has been one of the team’s most consistent producers and has been a bright spot in each of their games, tallying three goals, five points, 12 shots, and a plus-three rating.
Throughout the entire tournament, Tom Willander has consistently delivered strong performances, maintaining a low-key but impactful presence.
Like a fine wine, he appears to be getting better by the day. Or, in the tournament’s case, by the game.
Engaging early in the game, Willander showcased his usual active stick and disruptive defensive style.
Willander is often utilizing his active stick, and with the combination of his slick footwork, he can make his opponent’s jobs a living nightmare.
In the second period, he helped Sweden get on the scoreboard with his second point of the tournament, benefiting from a deflected and rebounded point shot. This marked his second consecutive game with a point.
As has been a theme in this tournament, for the fourth consecutive game, he was a plus-two (plus/minus) against Finland.
Among all skaters, he, along with his defensive partner, Theo Lindstein, now ranks second in plus/minus over the preliminary round with a plus-eight rating.
As an 18-year-old, Willander continued to play a simple yet effective game, finishing with 21:28 of ice time, the second-highest among defenders.
His preliminary round performance includes a goal, an assist, and a plus-eight rating.
Elias Pettersson, an early tournament standout among Sweden’s backend, had a tough game against the Finns.
Fortunately, after logging significant minutes in all three previous matches, he chose to have his subpar outing in the one game that meant nothing but pride.
The match saw Sweden concede four goals, and he was on the ice for each of them.
While one goal occurred during a penalty kill, the other three resulted from defensive breakdowns in front of the net, with Pettersson missing his necessary assignments.
For the fourth consecutive game, he was unable to find the scoresheet, but it wasn’t always from a lack of effort. He set up a few opportunities throughout the game, but could not get anything to go.
For the first time in the tournament, he recorded a minus plus/minus and finished with a team-worst minus-three rating.
Also for the first time in the tournament, his minutes fell short of the 20-minute mark, logging “just” 17:23 of ice time.
Previously, he had recorded 21:07, 23:12 and 20:46, respectively.
Despite a subpar performance in this outing, Pettersson has been an unsung hero for the team’s defensive efforts throughout the tournament and deserves some leeway, considering his strong defensive performance leading up to the game.
His role as a go-to shutdown option should continue in the upcoming Quarterfinals, so he’ll look to have a bounce back and return to his usual form as a prominent and aggressive shutdown defender.
He concluded the preliminary round with zero points and a minus-two rating over the four games.
As Sweden awaits the results of their next opponents, they will enjoy a day off to collect their thoughts and envision getting back to their winning ways.
As the top dog in Group A, they are guaranteed to play the fourth seed in Group B, which will either be Switzerland or Czechia.
As always, we will have your matchup preview and recaps here at CanucksArmy.
Happy New Year, everyone.
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