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Canucks’ Lekkerimäki and Jurmo bring home World Junior medals

Wild overtime finish gives Canada the gold over Finland at the 2022 World Junior Championship.
Joni Jurmo sad with silver - WJC 2022
Joni Jurmo and Finland came just short of winning the gold medal at the 2022 World Junior Championship.

The rescheduled World Junior Championship was something of an afterthought for hockey fans but it ended with an iconic World Junior that will live on for years to come.

It also ended with two Vancouver Canucks prospects taking home some hardware. 

Lekkerimäki benched but gets bronze 

Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Sweden played the early game on Saturday, taking on Czechia for the bronze medal. It was a tight game, as Sweden continued to play a conservative style that created few offensive opportunities for either team.

It was a strong start for Sweden, taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a wraparound goal by Vancouver Giants forward Fabian Lysell. Czechia pushed back hard in the second period, carrying the play, but could only manage one goal — a fortunate power play bounce off Michal Gut.

Sweden responded quickly in the second, with Isak Rosen scoring the go-ahead goal less than two minutes later. They then hunkered down to defend the one-goal lead in the third period. Linus Sjodin added an insurance marker late in the game for the 3-1 win to secure bronze.

Unfortunately for Canucks fans, Lekkerimäki didn’t make much of an impact in the gold medal game. He had just 6:11 in ice time and he was the only Swedish player who didn’t play at all in the third period. As much as it might make sense to shorten the bench to defend a one-goal lead, Lekkerimäki was pretty solid defensively in this tournament, with good positioning and awareness in the defensive zone.

Lekkerimäki finishes the tournament with 3 points in 7 games while averaging 10:50 per game, the third-lowest ice time on Sweden. It was an underwhelming tournament for the Canucks’ top pick in the 2022 draft, but he was also the youngest player on Sweden’s roster and is eligible for two more World Junior tournaments. Winning a bronze medal at 18 is good experience for the young winger.

Jurmo and Finland come agonizingly close to gold

The gold medal game between Finland and Canada might have been the best game of the entire tournament, which is appropriate. 

Canada carried the play early in the first period and it seemed like they might dominate. When Joshua Roy opened the scoring on a rebound just over 11 minutes into the game, shots were 7-0 for Canada. 

Finland pushed back hard, however, out-shooting Canada 9-to-2 for the rest of the period, then 9-to-4 in the second period, despite a wave of six-straight Finnish penalties.

Even with Finland getting the bulk of the shots, it was Canada that got the next goal, taking a 2-0 lead just a minute into the second period. It was a fantastic shot by William Dufour, as he dragged the puck around the outstretched stick of Jurmo and whipped it past the blocker of Juha Jatkola.

It was a fantastic move by Dufour but that’s a play that Jurmo would surely like to have back. He was backed in deep by Olen Zellweger on the rush when Jurmo’s defence partner had Zellweger covered. Jurmo needed to be more aggressive with his gap and avoid making himself small when Dufour took the shot.

Besides that play, however, Jurmo had a strong game. He was given less room to skate by Canada’s forecheck but made crisp, clean breakout passes all night long. With Finland handed so many penalties, Jurmo’s ice time could have been limited, but unlike earlier in the tournament, Jurmo was used on the penalty kill and acquitted himself well in the role.

Jurmo had one strong rush in the third period, using his mobility to accelerate from a forechecker, then a quick shift in weight to slip past another opponent in the neutral zone and get in deep in the Canadian zone, before stopping up and dropping the puck back. His puck-rushing ability remains Jurmo’s biggest strength.

Finland peppered the Canadian net in the third period, out-shooting Canada 17-to-10 in the final frame. While they gave up some chances with their more aggressive approach, Jatkola made some great saves in the Finnish net to help the comeback.

Aleksi Heimosalmi got Finland on the board after an icing call, sending a point shot top shelf past a screened Dylan Garand in the Canadian net. 

Then, after Jurmo got another clean zone exit, Finland scored the tying goal on a gorgeous pass from Topi Niemela to Joakim Kemell for a one-timer. 

The game went to 3-on-3 overtime and that’s when Mason McTavish made a play that will go down in World Junior lore. 

McTavish makes the save of the tournament

Finland had a 3-on-1, but didn’t get much on the shot, leading to an easy save for Garand. Instead of freezing the puck, however, Garand dropped the puck for McTavish, only for Finland’s Samuel Helenius to immediately steal it on what might have been an uncalled trip.

Eetu Liukas loaded up a shot, with Garand charging out to take away the angle. Then Liukas passed off to Niemela for the wide open net. Niemela didn’t get all of the puck but it didn’t matter — the puck was going in and Finland was going to win the gold medal.

But, incredibly, the puck didn’t go in.

With magnificent hand-eye coordination, Mason McTavish knocked the fluttering puck out of the air on the goal line, save a goal and gold for Canada.

A minute later, Port Moody’s Kent Johnson got in alone on Jatkola, who made a brilliant pad save on Johnson’s first attempt but couldn’t do anything to stop Johnson on the rebound. 3-2 Canada for the gold medal.

It was an exhilarating finish for Canada and a heartbreaking loss for Finland, who had come so achingly close to winning. 

Joni Jurmo gets a silver medal as consolation but it’s always tough to lose that final game. Jurmo finished the tournament with 1 points in 7 games, while averaging 14:36 in ice time. While he played a minor role for Finland, he opened some eyes to his potential as a prospect.