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Lekkerimaki scores twice, Sweden beats Czechia to advance to gold medal game at World Juniors

Sweden celebrates Sweden celebrates - The Canadian Press

Jonathan Lekkerimaki scored twice as Sweden used a three-goal third period to beat Czechia 5-2 in the semifinals and advance to the gold medal game at the 2024 World Juniors. 

Tied 2-2 heading into the third period, host Sweden got its first power play of the game in the third when Ales Cech cross-checked Lekkerimaki in front of the Czech net. Lekkerimaki scored 17 seconds into the power play, beating Czech goaltender Michael Hrabal blocker side cleanly to give Sweden a 3-2 lead. 

With eight minutes remaining in the game, Swedish defenceman Theo Lindstein sprung Noah Ostlund on the breakaway with Ostlund making no mistake and put the puck past Hrabal to give Sweden a two-goal lead. 

Just over a minute later, Lekkerimaki would extend the lead as Ostlund found him alone in front of the Czech net and snapped the puck past Hrabal for the 5-2 lead.

Czechia jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the contest, as forward Matyas Melovsky swept the puck past Swedish goaltender Hugo Havelid off a feed from Sebastian Redlich. But Sweden would tie the game just minutes later as Lindstein scored his second of the tournament. 

Axel Sandin-Pellikka, the overtime hero in Sweden's quarterfinal match against Switzerland, put Sweden ahead in the second period as his wrist shot from the blueline beat Hrabal on the glove side. 

The Czechs got the first power play of the game in the second period when Sweden’s Tom Willander was given a two-minute minor penalty for high-sticking. They would capitalize on the opportunity as Tomas Cibulka’s shot beat goaltender Hugo Havelid five hole to tie the game 2-2.

This is the first time Sweden will play in the gold medal game since 2018 and they will face the United States, who defeated Finland in the other semifinal on Thursday.