World Juniors: Sweden 9, Latvia 4

Friberg’s four goals lead Sweden to 9-4 win over Latvia, Islanders prospect Johan Sundstrom recorded an assist

Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 10:11 AM ET / News
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World Juniors: Sweden 9, Latvia 4
By Chris Jurewicz, IIHF.com

CALGARY –
Overcoming some early defensive breakdowns, Sweden hammered Latvia 9-4 in Monday’s World Junior opener at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Max Friberg led the Swedish attack with a four-goal outburst.

“He’s a coach’s dream player,” said Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg of Friberg. “He always contributes, he always competes. He skates hard and finishes hits. It’s good to see he can score some goals too.”

One of the loudest cheers of the day was for Sweden’s goaltender Johan Gustafsson. Too bad it was drenched with sarcasm.
 
Johan Sundström #13 of Team Sweden skates against Team USA at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 8, 2011 in Lake Placid, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The crowd at Scotiabank Saddledome mocked Sweden’s goaltender late in the first period when he made a save on a shot from centre ice, this after letting in two goals on the first two Latvia shots of the game.
 
Luckily for Sweden, Gustafsson’s early struggles didn’t hurt the team as the Swedes rolled to a 9-4 win on the opening day of the IIHF World Junior Championship in Calgary. Sweden led 3-2 after an entertaining, back-and-forth first period and 6-3 after two.

Max Friberg led the way for Sweden with four goals, including a beauty to open the scoring in the first. Friberg one-timed a pass from Johan Larsson at 3:28 of the first period to give Sweden a 1-0 lead. He added a goal later in the first on a tip-in of a Johan Sundstrom shot. Friberg had a pair of goals in the third period to ice the win.

“Of course I’m happy with the four goals, but I can play better,” said Friberg. “Around the boards and doing other things with the puck, setting up my teammates for better chances. I lost pucks at our offensive blueline, and I can do better there too. Still, before I always had to struggle a little bit before I could get a goal. Now, I was lucky this time.”

Mika Zibanejad scored twice for the Swedes and Sebastian Collberg, Erik Thorell and Joakim Nordström also had goals for the winners, who are looking to improve on a fourth-place finish at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo.

Toms Andersons scored Latvia’s first goal of the game at the 5:34 mark of the first period, which gave the underdogs – and crowd favourites – a short-lived 1-1 tie with Sweden.
 
How short lived? Sweden’s Friberg scored his second of the game just 16 seconds later.
 
Despite the loss, the Latvians have to feel good about this game, as they kept the score close into the later stages of the game. And, historically, this is Latvia’s best result against Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
 
In only two prior meetings between these teams, Sweden hit double digits in each game, winning 10-2 on Dec. 30, 2005 and 10-1 on Dec. 29, 2008. The fact the Latvians scored four goals and didn’t give up 10 has to be seen as a positive.

“We gave it our best effort all the time,” said Latvian assistant captain Zemgus Girgensons. “Everybody knows they’re a more skilled team. We just tried to work hard. We played with hope all the time. They beat us, but we’re proud of our game.”
 
Roberts Lipsbergs was another bright spot for the Latvians, scoring two goals for the losing team. Latvia’s fourth and final goal came off the stick of Zemgus Girgensons on a power play late in the third. The Calgary crowd, many of whom stuck around for the entire game, gave the Latvians a great cheer. It’s evident that Latvia has won the hearts of many in this city already.

“Now we feel better,” said Latvian captain Kristians Pelss. “We know we can score goals. The atmosphere in the team is much better.”
 
Latvia’s goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis was the busiest player on the ice, facing 40 shots from the Swedes.

The Swedes, who racked up 26 PIM, will want to cut down in that area in their next game against Switzerland on Wednesday.

“I think we’re dealing with young players who are pumped up for the first game of this World Junior Championship,” said Ronnberg. “They want to compete, and they went over the edge today, taking too many penalties, for sure.”
 
Nikita Jevpalovs (Latvia) and Filip Forsberg (Sweden) were named players of the game.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Bailey 2 1 2 1 3
R. Strome 2 2 0 1 2
B. Nelson 2 2 0 2 2
K. Okposo 2 1 1 1 2
J. Tavares 2 0 2 1 2
C. Clutterbuck 2 1 0 1 1
C. de Haan 2 0 1 0 1
M. Martin 2 0 1 0 1
L. Visnovsky 2 0 1 3 1
F. Nielsen 2 0 1 0 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 1 1 0 .917 2.52

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