Gold

US, Sweden will play for world junior gold after US beats Finland and Sweden tops Czech Republic

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (AP) — Sweden will play the United States for gold on home ice at the world junior hockey championship.

Jonathan Lekkerimaki scored on a power play in the third period before adding an insurance goal as the tournament hosts defeated the Czech Republic 5-2 on Thursday.

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 added his third goal of the under-20 event on a breakaway with eight minutes left to make it 4-2 before Lekkerimaki sealed things with his sixth just 1:02 later to blow the top off Scandinavium arena.

The United States battled back from an early two-goal deficit to down Finland 3-2 and book the other spot in Friday’s final.

The Finns and Czechs will play for bronze on Friday.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Lekkerimaki said of the gold-medal game. “Very excited.”

Axel Sandin Pellikka and Theo Lindstein had a goal and an assist each for Sweden, while Ostlund set up Lekkerimaki’s second for another two-point performance. Hugo Havelid made 23 saves.

Despite a long list of talent-loaded rosters, the Swedes have only won the world juniors twice, with the country’s last triumph coming in 2012 after previously topping the field in 1981.

Sweden made the final in front of its fans in 1993 and 2014, but settled for silver both times.

“Special to get a chance to bring home the gold,” Sandin Pellikka added. “Terrific opportunity.”

Matyas Melovsky and Tomas Cibulka scored for the Czech Republic, which beat Canada 3-2 in the quarterfinals. Hrabal stopped 26 shots.

Finland jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in Thursday’s second semifinal before the Americans, who are looking for a sixth gold after last winning in 2021, responded with two in the second.

Cutter Gauthier then bagged a late power-play goal as the U.S. remained the tournament’s only undefeated team.

Jimmy Snuggerud and Will Smith also scored for the Americans. Oiva Keskinen and Rasmus Kumpulainen scored for the Finns.

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

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AP hockey: https://apnews.com/hub/hockey




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