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Frolunda take commanding lead to Switzerland

Frolunda Gothenburg celebrate one of many goals on home ice.
© Frölunda Gothenburg/CHL via Getty Images

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.”

Huras's side would have wanted to keep the final period tight, but got off to the worst possible start as Frolunda ran in two quick goals to get themselves into a comfortable lead. As Fribourg failed to clear their own zone, a clever pass from Niklas Lasu put Rosseli-Olsen in on Conz and again he made no mistake with the finish, this time going top shelf at 40:19. Just under three minutes later the fifth goal came – Jacob Larsson's slap shot from the blue line going through traffic and into the net with 43:13 gone.
 
Coach Huras decide to pull goalie Conz after the goal, giving Finn Dennis Raikkonen the nod for the rest of the game. His first point of note was to deny Casey Wellman from the slot after Fribourg again didn't clear their zone, but as the period went on the game became much tighter. 
 
A late Fribourg power play was killed off by the Indians to give them the 5-1 win, and send Fribourg home with it all to do on their own ice next week.
 
“Next week we have to come out hard, skate with them all the game, and not give them anything,” Huras concluded. 
 
“Obviously we’re satisfied right now, but we can’t forget that it is a six-period game and that the fourth period begins on Tuesday,” said Olsen. “So we’re not going out there to defend anything. We’ll play our offensive-paced game style to extend that lead. If we do so, I think we have a great shot to advance further.”