They were so close in their 4-2 loss to the Americans on Saturday. On Monday, it was all different as Latvia earned a 3-2 shootout victory, this time over hockey powerhouse Sweden.
To say it’s the biggest upset of the tournament to date, would be an understatement. That’s because in the 11 previous meetings, Latvia’s best success against Sweden came in the result of a tie.
But not Monday afternoon in Group C play in Berne.
Sweden held a 1-0 lead after the first period play thanks to Linus Omarks goal with 4:34 remaining. But then the Latvians came out swinging in the second. Krisjanis Redlihs tied the score at one 10:20 into the middle period as Latvia was on the power play.
They then took a lead into the final 20 as Laurins Darzins tipped the puck past Swedish netminder Stefan Liv with just 45 seconds left in the middle stanza.
Heading into the intermission, Latvia was on top of the world. Holding a 2-1 lead on a strong Swedish team. Unfortunately the lead didn’t last long in terms of game time as former Panther Magnus Johansson knotted the score at two just 44 seconds in while Sweden was held the man advantage.
Sweden kept coming at Latvia in the third, peppering Edgars Masalskis with 14 shots in the period. Other than Johansson’s shot, the Latvian netminder stood strong. Latvia, meanwhile only had three shots on Liv.
After a scoreless overtime, the two teams went to the shootout. After three rounds, they were tied at two goals each. Then in the sudden death shootout, Masalskis stopped Johansson while A Nizivijs beat Liv to record the win.
Latvia is now 1-1 in the first round of play and can move on to the next round with either a victory or shootout/overtime loss to Austria on Wednesday.
Karlis Skrastins had two shots on net on 22:29 of ice time while Janis Sprukts was on the ice for 16:51.
Apparently the close scare against Latvia, did the United States good. They took Saturday’s adversity and learned from it as they cruised in their second tournament game, a 6-1 victory over Austria.
The lopsided affair was powered by a four goal third period, including three due to the power play as the United States took the 2-1 game after two and blew past the Austrians.
The favorites got on the board as Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown beat Austria’s Jurgen Penker 15:11 into the opening period to stake the United States to a 1-0 lead after one period of play.
Drew Stafford (Buffalo) bumped the American lead to 2-0 as the eventual game-winner 11:04 into the second period. The two-goal lead wouldn’t last long as Markus Peintner answered on an unassisted tally just 3:22 later.
With the score at 2-1 with 20 minutes to play, the United States made sure it wouldn’t be close at the end. They regained a two-goal lead just 25 seconds into the final period as Edmonton’s Patrick O’Sullivan potted his second of the tournament.
Then the United States’ power play unit got working. With two Austrian men in the box, both for slashing, Toronto’s Jason Blake scored 7:56 into the third. Then Lee Stempniak (Toronto) one-timed Ron Hainsey’s (Atlanta) pass into the back of the net at the 12:06 mark on a 5-on-4 advantage. And then another one-timer gave the USA a 6-1 advantage as Keith Ballard set up Matt Niskanen’s goal with 4:05 left in the contest and just two seconds left on a 5-on-3 man advantage.
The United States improve to 2-0 in the tournament while Austria falls to 0-2. The Americans are already guaranteed a spot in the next round with a game against Sweden on Wednesday left to play.
Ballard finished the game with the assist on two shots and 12:54 of ice time.
While the United States used a strong finish to pull away from their opponents, the Czech Republic got a huge start to their game as they scored three times in the first period on their way to a 5-2 victory over Norway.
The Czechs got on the board just 5:20 into the game as Jan Marek netted his second of the tournament. The power play gave them a two-goal lead when Petr Cajanek, set up by Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky and NHL great Jaromir Jagr, found the back of the net 4:15 later. Josef Vasicek (Columbus) gave them a 3-0 lead heading into the break with a goal with 7:41 left in the opening period.
Norway would make it semi-interesting as they would score two of the three goals in the second period. They finally got on the board just 1:49 into the middle period as Tommy Jakobsen scored to bring the score to 3-1. The Czech’s got the three-goal lead back when Rostislav Olesz set up Miroslav Blatak 12:34 in. Then with only eight ticks on the clock, Mats Zuccarello Aasen recorded Norway’s second of the game.
It would not be enough as Martin Prusek stopped all X shots in the third while Jakub Klepis scored the game’s final goal 11:14 into the period.
The Czech Republic (2-0) are also guaranteed to move onto the next round. Their last game comes Wednesday against Finland.
Olesz finished with the assist and was a a plus-1 on 11:09 of ice time.
First Round (2-0)
United States (4) vs Latvia (2) - Saturday April 25
United States (6) vs Austria (1) - Monday April 27
United States vs Sweden - Wednesday April 29
Keith Ballard - 2 GP - 1 Assist - 4 Shots - 28:12 Total Ice Time - -1 +/- Rating
First Round (2-0)
Czech Republic (5) vs Norway (0) - Saturday April 25
Czech Republic (5) vs Denmark (2) - Monday Apirl 27
Czech Republic vs Finland - Wednesday April 29
Rostislav Olesz - 2 GP - 1 Assist - 0 Shots - 22:50 Total Ice Time - 1 +/- Rating
Michael Frolik - 0 GP - Shots - Ice Time - +/- Rating
First Round (1-1)
Latvia (2) vs United States (4) - Saturday April 25
Latvia (3) vs Sweden (2) (SO) - Monday April 27
Latvia vs Austria - Wednesday April 29
Karlis Skrastins (C) - 2 GP - 0 Shots - 40:48 Total Ice Time - +1 +/- Rating
Janis Sprukts - 2 GP - 1 Assist - 2 Shots - 35:14 Total Ice Time - +1 +/- Rating