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Latvia earns spot in 2013 WJC

by Mike G. Morreale
CALGARY - The Latvian National Junior Team secured an invitation to the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship on Wednesday in dramatic fashion when Nikita Jevpalovs scored 1:43 into overtime to give his country a 2-1 victory over Denmark in the relegation round before 6,983 at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

"It was sick," Jevpalovs told the IIHF website. "I only scored one goal in the tournament before, and to score one like this is a big deal."

Jevpalovs controlled a rebound off a shot taken by Robert Lipsberg and slipped his attempt between the legs of Denmark goalie Sebastian Feulk (29 saves). Kristers Gudlevskis stopped 22 shots for Latvia.

The victory enables Latvia to finish ninth at this year's WJC while Denmark places tenth. Denmark will be demoted to Division 1 in 2013, while Germany gets promoted for next year's tournament in Ufa, Russia. The other two relegation round teams, the U.S. and Switzerland, have already punched their tickets into next year's WJC. They will play 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday to determine the seventh-place finisher.

Denmark had taken a 1-0 lead 3:21 into the first when Oliver Bjorkstrand scored off a pass from Thomas Spelling before Latvia evened the score in the second at the 11:34 mark when Kristians Pelss ripped a one-timer eight seconds into a power-play.

"Right now there are not too many words to explain how bad our feelings are," said Denmark's Nicklas Jensen told the IIHF website. "That's not what we wanted. I think the game went quite well for both teams. Both teams had a lot of chances, but Latvia scored on a golden opportunity in the end. That's what won them the game. That's hockey."

Jensen, a 2011 first-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks, was shaken up early in the third period when he crashed into the boards behind the Latvian net. Jensen did return to the game. Jensen led the Danes with 6 points, including 2 goals.  

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