It took a few games for Jonathan Lekkerimäki to find his footing at the Summer World Juniors, but he finished off group play in style.
The Canucks’ 15th overall pick from July’s draft notched a pair of assists in Team Sweden’s final game of the round robin, a 4-2 victory over Team Germany. The win clinched second place in Group B for Lekkerimäki and the Swedes, who will face the Cinderella story Latvians in the quarterfinal.
After the Germans took an early lead, Lekkerimäki played a crucial role in bringing his team back to level on the power play. The 18-year-old winger won a quick battle in the corner and sent the puck back to defencemen Emil Andrae, who set up Oskar Olausson for the tying goal.
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In the third period, Lekkerimäki helped seal victory for the Swedes on another man advantage, holding the puck in the German zone under pressure along the boards before moving it to Andrae in the corner.
The puck quickly found its way back into the slot for an Oskar Magnusson one-timer to give Sweden an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
The Germans would add one more goal in the dying seconds of a controversial deflection, but Lekkerimäki’s strong finish to round-robin play is certainly a microcosm of Sweden’s overall play. Expected to be a gold medal favourite, the Swedes have struggled to assert their dominance against weaker opponents like Switzerland and Germany and dropped a vital 3-2 game to the United States.
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Lekkerimäki has had a relatively quiet tournament overall, putting up just one assist in the first three games. After their group play finale, the 18-year-old forward sits tied for fourth in team scoring with three points, but if he and his teammates keep showing signs of improvement in the elimination round, he could still finish on a high note with a medal around his neck.
Lekkerimäki and Team Sweden will return to the ice for their quarterfinal matchup against Team Latvia on August 17.
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