|Photo by Alexander Antashkevich
– Edmonton Oil Kings forward Kristians Pelss
set up the eventual game-winning goal as Latvia defeated the host nation Belarus 3-1 on Sunday to capture the IIHF World U-20 Division 1 Group A Championship.
Pelss and Team Latvia posted a perfect 5-0 record at the Division 1 championship, which is one level below the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. Latvia was relegated to Division 1 following last year's World Juniors in Saskatchewan, but with their win at this year's Division 1 tournament, they will jump back up to the top-level U-20 event next year in Edmonton and Calgary.
Latvia opened the tournament with a 6-1 domination of Great Britain, pounded Ukraine 9-0 in their second game, earned slim wins over Italy (1-0) and Japan (2-1) in their third and fourth games, and knocked off the host Belarus squad 3-1 on Sunday to win the championship.
There was no playoff round, but since Latvia and Belarus were both 4-0 heading into the final round-robin game, it served as the championship match as well. In the Division 1 Group B tournament, Denmark emerged victorious and will join Latvia at the 2012 World Juniors in Alberta.
Pelss, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound left-winger from Preili, Latvia, scored two goals and two assists with a plus-three rating in five games at the tournament. He assisted on Bruno Zabis' eventual game-winner 2:07 into the second period of Sunday's game against Belarus.
Pelss was selected by the Oil Kings in the first round (19th overall) of the 2010 CHL Import Draft. The 18-year-old was also picked in the seventh round (181st overall) by the Edmonton Oilers at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He attended Oilers Rookie Camp in September and competed at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, B.C. He has three goals and seven assists in 27 games with the Oil Kings so far this season.
Pelss and the Oil Kings (16-16-0-2) return to action following the holiday break on Monday, Dec. 27 when they host the Lethbridge Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at Rexall Place. The 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship will be in full swing by then, so the Oil Kings are celebrating Canada Day, as fans are encouraged to wear red in support of the national junior team.Tickets to every Oil Kings home game, are available starting at just $15 at any Ticketmaster outlet, online at oilkings.ca, or by calling 780-414-GOAL (4625).