Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
World Juniors Recap: Canucks’ trio contribute to both goals as Sweden takes down Canada 2-0
By Dave Hall1 month ago
After two relatively smooth games for Team Sweden, their first significant test came on Friday against Canada, creating an atmosphere that is hard to replicate.
Matches between high-profile teams always generate a buzz, but this game brought a Gold Medal vibe right from the start.
The crowd, the players, and the intensity were palpable from the jump.
With some tight-knit defensive work, the game took some time to find its offensive rhythm. The first period would end scoreless, despite a four-minute power play for the Swedes – a result of a high-sticking infraction, courtesy of Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s teeth.
However, just minutes into the second frame, Canuck prospect, Tom Willander, opened the scoring, a goal that eventually stood as the game-winner.
Limiting the Canadians to just 21 shots, Sweden showcased why they entered the tournament as favourites, giving the red and white (or, in today’s jersey case, black and red) absolutely nothing to work with.
Even with a couple of third-period power plays, Canada was unable to solve this defensively rugged team, suffering defeat for the first time in the tournament.
With this victory, Sweden solidified its hold on Group A and with a 3-0-0 record, remains just one of two teams to carry a perfect record in the tournament – Slovakia, in Group B, being the other.
As we have seen all week long, the Canucks’ trio played a pivotal role in this game, contributing to both Swedish goals, while continuing to make their presence felt in the physical department.
This tournament feels like Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s coming out party, as he is finally getting the opportunity to show what a healthy Lekkerimäki can do.
Whether it’s scoring goals, setting up plays, making moves around defenders, or simply making smart decisions with and without the puck, the 19-year-old is making his mark on the tournament, and with the exception of their goaltender, may be the team’s most consistent player.
He was setting the tone early on, once again, and had several opportunities early in the first.
Midway through the first period, he took a high stick to the mouth, resulting in a four-minute power play. Despite several shot attempts from Lekkerimäki, he was unable to register a point on the scoresheet during the advantage.
If there was one area in which we’d hope for more, it’s his accuracy.
His shooter’s mentality is encouraging to witness, but we have seen multiple – and we mean, multiple – shots miss the net. A slight re-calibration, and he could lead the tournament in goals, by now.
In the second period, after Tom Willander had opened the scoring, Lekkerimäki found himself all alone in the slot, thanks to a strong play by his linemate, Noah Östlund. Unfortunately, Canadian netminder Mathis Rousseau made one of several key saves in this game, using his pad to deflect the initial shot.
Lekkerimäki stuck with the play, however, narrowly keeping the puck in the offensive zone before unleashing a panicked shot on net. Östlund, all alone in front of the net, capitalized on the rebound to double their lead, giving Lekkerimäki his fourth point of the tournament.
From there, it was time to shut down the Canadians, and although there were exchanged attempts, the rest of the game was focused on keeping the puck out of their own net and securing the win.
Lekkerimäki finished the game with one assist, one shot, and a plus-one rating through 16:42 of ice time.
Tom Willander was noticeable early in this game, showcasing strong outlets and providing some noteworthy offensive opportunities. Through his first two games, this was something that had not been on display a ton, so it was encouraging to see.
In his first few shifts, he set up the game’s best chance, skillfully handling the puck off his skates and maneuvering through the opposing team, setting up the scoring chance.
His significant contribution came in the second period, breaking the deadlock in this extremely tight match with the game’s first goal.
Following a great pass from Theo Lindstein, Willander leaned into the puck, unleashing a perfectly placed wrist shot above the goaltender’s pad to secure his first goal in a World Junior setting.
It’s safe to say, he lifted the roof with this goal.
As an 18-year-old playing in a primary shutdown role, offence is not what will make his tournament successful…
With that said, you know that this one felt good.
The goal would hold up as the eventual game-winning tally.
As mentioned, the Swedes would shift their focus, assuring that they come out on top with the victory. Willander played a prominent role in the third period, finishing second to only Elias Pettersson in ice time on the backend.
The Swedes had to kill two crucial penalties to end the game, and the first-rounder was a catalyst to that success.
He finished the game with a goal (game-winner), two shots and a plus-two rating through 17:59 of ice time.
With Elias Solomonsson returning from his served suspension, Elias Pettersson saw his ice time decrease for the first time this week.
With that said, it didn’t decrease by much.
Despite playing on the “third” paring in Friday’s match, Pettersson still managed to eat up 20:41 minutes, finishing with the Swedes’ most minutes for the third consecutive game.
Whether on even-strength or during penalty kills, the 19-year-old is logging extensive ice time and maintaining consistency shift after shift.
As expected, Pettersson set the tone early on, delivering several hits to show the Canadians that he means business.
Midway through the first period, the Canadians found themselves on a potential 3-on-1, with only Pettersson to defend the Swedish zone.
Did he panic? Absolutely not. Instead, he dropped down to break up the pass, which would have provided a stellar chance for the Canadians and single-handedly thwarted the rush.
As we’ve learned throughout the tournament, Pettersson hasn’t brought much to the table in terms of highlights and offensive flair, but he’s been the unsung hero for Sweden on the backend, giving his opponents nothing to work with and providing cool, calm transitions.
He finished the game with one shot, while leading the team with 20:41 of ice time.
Next up for the Swedes is their highly-anticipated rival match against Team Finland, scheduled for New Year’s Eve.
The Finns have had a challenging tournament, entering with a 1-2-0 record after experiencing the tournament’s biggest upset at the hands of the Germans.
Stay tuned for our preview at CanucksArmy.
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