Latvia could advance in hockey championship

If Austria plays as poorly as it has so far, Latvia should have little trouble advancing out of the preliminary round of this year’s International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championship underway in Berne, Switzerland.

Latvia, with a 1-1 record, faces 0-2 Austria on April 29. If Latvia wins, it will advance to the qualifying round.

Latvia already has gone up against the United States, losing the April 25 game 4-2, and upset Sweden on April 27 in a 3-2 shootout victory.

Austria, on the other hand, has been clobbered 7-1 by Sweden and 6-1 by the U.S.

In its game against the U.S., Latvia was the first to score, according to a game summary posted on the IIHF Web site, Four minutes, 40 seconds into the first period, Herberts Vasiļjevs scored on a power play with assistance from Aleksandrs Niživijs and Mārtiņš Cipulis. America’s Jack Johnson answered at 11:15 with help from John Michael Liles and Kyle Okposo.

At 6:39 into the second period, Mārtīņš Karsums scored Latvia’s second goal with assistance from Ģirts Ankipāns and Jānis Sprukts. But less than five minutes later Drew Stafford tied the score for the U.S. and then Johnson made it 3-2.

Patrick O’Sulllivan, aided by Ron Hainsey and Dustin Brown, added one more goal for the U.S. during the third period.

For the game, the U.S. had 38 shots on goal against Latvia’s netminder Edgars Masaļskis, while Latvia tried 20 times to score against America’s Robert Esche. Both teams accumulated 8 minutes in the penalty box.

During last year’s World Championship in Halifax, Canada, the U.S. beat Latvia 4-0 in the preliminary round.

Latvia did not get a chance to play Sweden last year, but this week surprised its opponents with a 3-2 victory.

The Swedes got on the scoreboard first, according to the IIHF game summary, when Linus Omark score at 15:26 into the first period. He was assisted by Johan Harju and Martin Thornberg.

The Latvians answered twice during the second period, making the score 2-1. At 10:20 Krišjānis Rēdlihs shot the puck past Swedish goaltender Stefan Liv, aided on the power play by Ankipāns and Karsums. About nine minutes later Lauris Dārziņš scored with help from Miķelis Rēdlihs and Rodrigo Laviņš.

Sweden tied it up at 10:44 into the third period when Magnus Johansson, helped by Loui Eriksson, took advantage of a power play to score against Latvia’s Masaļskis.

That took the game into overtime, but when neither team scored, into a shootout that Latvia won 3-2.

For the game, Latvia had 22 shots on goal to Sweden’s 40. Latvian players spent 10 minutes in the penalty box compared to the Swedes’ six.

Last year in Halifax, Latvia almost made it to the quarter-finals, but finished 11th overall. Russia won the 2008 championship.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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