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Canada advances to semifinal at world championship with 4-2 win over Latvia @NHL

BERN, Switzerland - The Canadians were too much for little Latvia to handle at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

Dan Hamhuis had a goal and an assist Thursday as Canada advanced to the final four at the tournament with a 4-2 quarter-final win. They will play either Sweden or the Czech Republic in Friday's semifinal.

Dany Heatley, Steven Stamkos and Matthew Lombardi also scored for Canada.

Guntis Galvins and Herberts Vasiljevs replied for the Latvians.

The tiny Baltic country is still seeking its first appearance in the semifinals and its first win over Canada at the world championship.

However, this game did include some small victories - Latvia was the first team to score short-handed against the Canadians at this year's event and the first to keep them off the scoreboard in the opening 20 minutes.

They also briefly got within a goal in the final period after Vailjevs beat goaltender Chris Mason with a high shot at 1:27. Lombardi essentially ended any hope of a miracle win for the Latvians when he made a couple nice moves and slid the puck behind Edgards Masalskis less than two minutes later.

The Latvians did everything they could to keep the game close.

They appeared content to play for a 0-0 tie in the opening period, spending most of their energy clogging the neutral zone and limiting Canada's chances. Even though Canada ended up with 16 shots during the frame, very few were dangerous.

The lack of quality scoring chances contributed to a sleepy atmosphere inside the refurbished PostFinance Arena, where Canada was playing for the first time.

The rink came alive during the second period as Canada began to take control of the game.

Heatley opened the scoring at 6:37 when he hammered home a beautiful pass from Derek Roy. The sniper pumped his arm in celebration for his sixth goal in seven games at this event and his first in this arena since playing for Bern during the NHL lockout.

The Canadians built a 2-0 lead after Hamhuis slapped a rolling puck that knuckled its way past Masalskis.

Even though that appeared to deflate the Latvian bench, the team didn't show any quit. Moments after killing off the first penalty of a 5-on-3 disadvantage, Galvins scored short-handed at 17:30 with a shot that rang off the inside post and in.

The maroon-clad Latvian fans barely had enough time to sit back in their seats before Stamkos made it 3-1. He knocked home a rebound 17 seconds later, giving him a team-leading seven goals.

After the team traded goals early in the third period, Latvia was given four straight power plays. That included a two-man advantage for 38 seconds that became a 6-on-3 when coach Olegs Znaroks called Masalskis to the bench.

They never really generated even a dangerous scoring chance and Canada was able to nurse the lead.

The country has now guaranteed itself the chance to play for a medal at this event for the seventh straight year. The only time it failed to win one during that stretch is 2006.

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