Calgary, AB - Edmonton Oilers prospects Martin Gernat and Martin Marincin each recorded an assist for Slovakia in a slim 3-1 win over Latvia on Tuesday in Group A action at the World Junior Championship at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
Latvia, led by team captain and another Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss, jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the Slovaks on a second period goal by Juris Ziemins. But Gernat and Marincin chipped in on Tomas Jurco's equalizing tally later in the middle frame before Marek Tvrdon and Michal Toman scored in the third period to seal the victory for Slovakia.
It was the start to the 2012 World Junior tournament that the Slovaks were looking for, as they aim to improve on their sixth-place showing at the 2011 event in Buffalo. Namesake defencemen Gernat and Marincin are looking to continue to contribute offensively and play shut-down roles on the back end.
"It was a hard game, but we played well," Gernat said after Tuesday's win. "They're a good skating team and we had some little problems at the start. But we scored three goals when we needed to and we're all pretty happy. Getting that first goal on the power play was really important for us, and for me."
"It feels good to win and have the first game finished," Marincin added. "I like playing with Martin — he's a good player who likes to pass. We know where we skate … it's good for maybe later with the Oilers."
The 6-foot-5 Gernat was selected 122nd overall by the Oilers in the 2011 NHL Draft and is having a fantastic rookie WHL season with the Edmonton Oil Kings, putting up 25 points and a team-best +23 rating in 31 games.
Marincin, meanwhile, is no pint-sized puck-moving rearguard himself, also listed at 6-foot-5. The Oilers' 46th-overall selection in 2010 is in his second WHL season with the Prince George Cougars and has amassed an impressive 72 points in 95 regular season junior games.
While Slovakia is off to a comfortable 1-0 start, Latvia limps out of the gate at 0-2 despite back-to-back strong efforts. Prior to Tuesday's slim loss to the Slovaks, they provided Sweden with a challenge on Monday, trailing just 4-3 midway through the game before eventually falling 9-4.
"It was a tie game and everybody tried hard … one shot changed the whole game," said Pelss, who is the other import player and good friend of Gernat's on the Oil Kings squad. "It was difficult, because we could have won this game. Luck wasn't on our side. Hopefully the next game will be better."
Latvia does not play Wednesday and tangles with the defending gold medalists from Russia next on Thursday at 8pm at the Saddledome. Slovakia, meanwhile, looks to make it two straight wins when they play the Russians on Wednesday, also at 8pm.