Latvia drops first championship game; player suspended for body-check

Latvia is off to a bad start in the 2011 World Championship of ice hockey, getting trounced in its first match of the tournament and losing defenseman Artūrs Kulda, who has been suspended for three games for a body-check that sent a Czech player to the hospital.

The championship, sponsored by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) and being played in Slovakia, runs through May 15.

During the first period of the April 30 preliminary game round between Latvia and the Czech Republic, Kulda checked defenseman Radek Martinek. The Czech player was taken to a Bratislava hospital where he was found to have suffered a severe concussion and a hematoma, according to an IIHF report.

The IIHF Disciplinary Panel handed down the suspension on May 1.

Latvia lost the game 4-2 against the defending world champion Czechs.

Latvia next plays Finland in a preliminary round game scheduled at 20:15 GMT on May 2, and then faces Denmark at 16:15 GMT May 4.

A total of 16 teams are compeing the World Championship. The top three teams in each of four preliminary round groups will advance to the qualifying round, while the fourth-place team in each group will head to the relegation round.

Last year, when the World Championship was held in Germany, Latvia finished 11th overall.

4 thoughts on “Latvia drops first championship game; player suspended for body-check

  1. Close but not close enough! After playing well despite losing against the Czechs, Latvia had another strong showing against the Finns drawing 2:2 after regulation time only to lose 2:3 in a sudden death shoot-out. That set Latvia up for a must-win game against the supposedly weaker Danes who lost their first two games by wide margins. Unfortunately the result was the same, 2:2 after regulation time and another 2:3 loss in the shoot-out. This dropped Latvia into the relegation round (i.e. the bottom four teams in the 16 country tournament) with games against Slovenia, Belarus and Austria. The bottom two teams get relegated. Things have not started well. Latvia was beaten handily by Slovenia on May 5 while Belarus overwhelmed Austria. That forces Latvia into a must win scenario against Belarus and Austria to stave off relegation. The game against Belarus on May 7 will be tough and the result between Slovenia and Austria will also figure in helping decide Latvia’s fate. They’ve done it before, so here’s hoping that Latvia can still stave off elimination and stay at the highest tier where they’ve been since 1997, a remarkable run for a hockey middle power. But this year’s trials and tribulations however illustrate the challenges facing Latvian hockey – the lack of depth. Down a few players and all of a sudden you’re very vulnerable. This year NHLer Skrastins was unable to join, Bartulis who has seen NHL action was out with an injury, Kulda was suspended for the hit against the Czechs although he will be back against Belarus and Austria, Sprukts from Riga Dinamo but also with a few NHL games to his credit sat out while Daugavins is seeing AHL play-off action in North America and top Dinamo Riga forward Darzins got injured in the game against the Danes. A number of younger players have been called in to fill the gap but they’re not ready for prime time.

  2. Sveiks Viestur, Nezinu ka Tu visu so paturi galva kad pavasaris zalo un zied jo tas tacu ir ledus un tumsas lieta. Ciao.

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