Frolunda take commanding lead to Switzerland
Defending champions Frolunda Gothenburg came through a tight first period to eventally run out comfortable winners over Fribourg-Gotteron. Read more in Gamecentre.
by Luke Fisher, with contribution from Efraim Larsson
A frantic opening period in Gothenburg saw Fribourg give the hosts as good as they got for much of the first 20 minutes, with Fribourg having arguably the better chances. The first of the game fell to Michal Birner as Fribourg capitalized on a giveaway, his shot went through Johan Gustafsson but crashed off the crossbar to deflect over. At the other end, Benjamin Conz was called into early action with a superb double save, eventually denying Johan Sundstrom from point-blank range as he pounced on a rebound. Fribourg, however, continued to stay in the game with a physical intensity not seen in Gothenburg by many visiting teams this season.
A pin-point pass from Flavio Schmutz picked out Benjamin Neukom, but his shot was well saved by Gustafsson. Eventually the deadlock was broken, and it was the hosts who got it after some sustained pressure, John Nyberg fired top shelf from a tight angle to beat Conz with 12:57 played. You'd have forgiven Fribourg for then trying to keep things tight, but instead the visitors went on the charge and were duly rewarded – Caryl Neuenschwander tried to pass across the crease, but instead fired against Nyberg who was powerless to stop his skate deflecting the puck through Gustafsson's five-hole to tie the game at 14:02.
“We faced a very skilled team and maybe we were a bit surprised about their strong forechecking to begin with, and we didn’t really play our game and worked that hard which gave them a lot of momentum to work with,” said Mats Roselli-Olsen, who led Frolunda offensively with two goals and one assist. “But we managed to get a grip of it and started to play our game in the second and third period and eventually the game opened up.”
Whatever Roger Ronnberg said to his Frolunda players in the break certainly had the desired effect, as the Indians came out stronger in the middle period. Fribourg were forced to kill off two early power play chances as the period got going, the best chance of both falling to Frolunda's Johan Sundstrom, but his tip was dealt with by excellent reactions from Conz.
The home side's pressure eventually took its toll on the visitors. A beautiful long pass from Sebastian Stalberg set Mats Rosseli-Olsen through 1-on-0, and he made no mistake with a smart move to beat Conz through the five-hole and make it 2-1 with 26:54 played. Fribourg pressed for an equalizer, but were then undone by their own offensive play – Nyberg poked the puck free on the blue line, skated down the ice, and fooled Conz – who was expecting a pass cross-crease – by just allowing the puck to sail into the net instead with 29:28 gone. Fribourg were unable to score on a power play chance of their own as the period wound down, to head into the locker room 3-1 behind after 40 minutes.
“Well we had a great start in the first period and played pretty well,” Fribourg coach Larry Huras began in his post-game comments, “but then we made two big mistakes at the start of the second and they scored on them. Overall we made too many mistakes an you can't give them chances like that because they'll punish you.”