Canucks prospect Lekkerimaki leads Sweden to world juniors final

Jonathan Lekkerimaki scored the winner on a power play in the third period before adding an insurance goal as the tournament hosts defeated Czechia 5-2 in the first of two semifinals Thursday.

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GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Sweden will play for gold on home soil at the world junior hockey championship.

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Jonathan Lekkerimaki scored the winner on a power play in the third period before adding an insurance goal as the tournament hosts defeated Czechia 5-2 in the first of two semifinals Thursday.

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The Vancouver Canucks prospect blasted a one-timer past Czech goaltender Michael Hrabal on Sweden’s first man advantage of the afternoon at 5:14 to snap a 2-2 tie.

Noah Ostlund then scored his third goal of the world juniors on a breakaway with eight minutes left to make it 4-2 before Lekkerimaki added his sixth just 1:02 later to blow the top off Scandinavium arena.

The United States and Finland played the late game for the other berth in Friday’s final.

Axel Sandin Pellikka, with a goal and an assist, and Theo Lindstein also scored for Sweden. Hugo Havelid got the win. Ostlund added an assist for a two-point performance.

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The Swedes have only won the annual under-20 showcase twice, with the country’s last triumph coming in 2012 after previously topping the field in 1981.

Matyas Melovsky and Tomas Cibulka scored for Czechia, which upset Canada 3-2 in the quarterfinals. Hrabal took the loss.

The Swedes, who have settled for silver 11 times, lost to the U.S. in last year’s bronze-medal game in Halifax.

Melovsky opened Thursday’s scoring at 6:55 of the first for the Czechs, who lost the final to Canada in 2023, with his first to briefly silence the crowd before Lindstein bagged his second when Hrabal whiffed on a fluttering point shot at 11:52.

The Swedes escaped with a 3-2 overtime victory against Switzerland to make the semis, and pushed ahead 2-1 just 2:35 into the middle period when Sandin Pellikka’s point shot once again fooled the hulking Hrabal high on the glove side for the defenceman’s second.

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But the Czechs responded again on a power play 5:01 later, when Cibulka hammered his second on a one-timer that beat Havelid between the pads on a shot that was reminiscent of the defenceman’s 2-0 goal against Canada in the quarters.

Hrabal and Havelid traded big stops early in the third before Lekkerimaki fired Sweden into its first final since falling to Canada in 2018.

In the relegation game earlier Thursday, Germany survived a blown two-goal lead with under seven minutes to go in the third period to beat Norway 5-4 in overtime to book a place at the 2025 tournament in Ottawa.

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reference: theprovince.com

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