Calgary, AB – Max Friberg scored four of Sweden's nine goals to lead his team to a dominant 9-4 win over Latvia on Monday at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary in Group A Preliminary Round action at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship.
Sweden, which has medaled at three of the last four World Junior tournaments and placed fourth last year, got a bit of a scare from Latvia in the opening day game. The opening 34 minutes were tight, with Sweden leading 4-3, but the Scandinavian squad scored five of the next six goals to win decisively.
Two Edmonton Oilers draft picks competed in the game, as defenceman Oscar Klefbom (selected 19th overall in 2011) suited up for Sweden and winger Kristians Pelss (selected 181st overall in 2010) is the team captain for Latvia.
Klefbom wasn't able to find the scoresheet during Sweden's offensive onslaught, but he did have five shots on goal and a +2 rating. The 18-year-old is in his second season with Farjestads BK Karlstad of the Swedish Elite League.
"Oscar is a hard defenceman to play against for the other team's forwards," Sweden Head Coach Roger Ronnberg said of Klefbom's performance in the opener. "He's a hard-working defenceman who plays in the face of the opposition. He finishes checks and I think he's contributing by giving us good defence."
Pelss finished the game with three shots on goal and an even rating, despite the lopsided score. The 19-year-old has scored 58 points in 97 WHL games with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Pelss scored two goals and two assists at the 2011IIHF World U-20 Division 1 Championship, helping Latvia capture gold and move up to the elite World Junior tournament this year in Alberta.
"We got a good start and kept it pretty close but then they starting getting lots of shots on us," Pelss said after the loss to Sweden. "But I thought everyone played hard. Now we're preparing for next game and hopefully we win. We know we can score goals, which feels good. It's a big opportunity for us."
Roberts Lipsbergs led the way for Latvia in the defeat with a pair of goals, while Ludvig Rensfeldt and Sebastian Collberg each chipped in with three points for Sweden on top of Friberg's four-goal performance.
Next up for Latvia in Group A Preliminary Round action is Slovakia on Tuesday at 8pm. The Slovaks were idle on Monday and feature two Oilers draft picks — defencemen Martin Marincin and Martin Gernat. Sweden, meanwhile, has Tuesday off and takes on Switzerland on Wednesday at 3:30pm.