It’s always a close battle when Finland and Sweden match up at the World Junior Championship.
Once again, that was the case on Monday as the teams were tied at one goal apiece after 40 minutes of play. Finland came out and scored in the third period to take a 2-1 lead, but Sweden came fighting back late when Leo Carlsson tied the game at two with just under four minutes remaining in the third period.
Then, with 65 seconds remaining in the third period, Victor Stjernborg pickpocketed a Finnish defenceman and walked in to score the game-winning goal for Sweden late in the game.
Sweden advances to the final four and will have at least two more games at the tournament.
As for the Canucks prospects, it was not a good day for Jonathan Lekkerimäki, who was benched at five-on-five in the second period after having a weak first period. Lekkerimäki saw one shift in the second period and it was when Sweden was on the power play.
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He continued to be benched in the third period, only seeing a shift when Sweden went to the man-advantage.
A lot of people say that this is a 19-year-old tournament, and to a certain degree, they are correct, but this is also a tournament for first-round picks and Jonathan Lekkerimäki was selected 15th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Lekkerimäki is coming off a concussion so the expectations weren’t extremely high for what he could do at this tournament, but his performance at the World Juniors is another disappointing showing in a long line of disappointing outings already this season.
As for Elias Pettersson, it wasn’t a tremendously great game for him as well. He looked good for most of the game but was on the ice for both of Finland’s goals.
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Pettersson came in with low expectations from us but has definitely played above what we were expecting from him. He is Sweden’s most-trusted penalty-killing defenceman and moved the puck out of his own zone consistently with confidence. He has also been confident with his shot and is jumping in to try to add to the offence.
We will now have at least two more games for Sweden as they will play in the semi-finals as well as either the gold or bronze medal game.
Maybe Lekkerimäki can turn things around and step up for Sweden. Our hope is that he is at least playing consistent five-on-five minutes in the semi-final game. At this point, that would be a step in the right direction.
On a side note, with Finland eliminated, goaltender Aku Koskenvuo is eliminated from the tournament. He will return to Harvard to continue his NCAA season.
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