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 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 76 34 40 -3 74
R. Strome 75 15 32 19 47
K. Okposo 54 15 31 -10 46
F. Nielsen 75 13 28 9 41
B. Nelson 76 18 22 9 40
A. Lee 70 23 16 12 39
J. Bailey 64 15 23 4 38
J. Boychuk 66 8 25 9 33
T. Hamonic 66 5 25 16 30
N. Leddy 72 10 19 15 29
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 35 16 2 .915 2.39
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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