Latvia moves closer to quarters

Latvia's 4-1 win over Norway keeps quarterfinal hopes alive


Herberts Vasiljevs puts Latvia ahead 2-1 with a late first-period goal. Photo: IIHF/HHoF/Jukka Rautio

HALIFAX – Herberts Vasiljevs scored the go-ahead goal late in the first period to send Latvia to a 4-1 win over Norway. The win moves the Latvians closer to Norway for the fourth and final playoff spot.

Latvia can clinch fourth spot and a place in the quarter-finals with a win over Germany tomorrow night. Norway must beat the tougher United States team in the afternoon game or have Germany beat Latvia in regulation time to gain that final playoff position.

"It was great we scored three goals early," said Mikelis Redlihs, who scored the third Latvian goal. "We tried to focus on the game and play hard."

"We weren't as prepared today. We were behind them all the way," admitted Norwegian forward Anders Bastiansen. "We couldn't get the puck on net, even when there were key people in front. Latvia blocked a lot of shots, but there's a lot we did wrong today as well."

Latvia drew first blood at 11:34 of the first period on a two-on-one with Janis Sprukts and Martins Cipulis. Sprukts carried the puck in on goal and made a perfect pass to Cipulis who finished the play by beating goalie Pal Grotnes.

Just 82 seconds later, the Norwegians tied it up on a nice play by Anders Bastiansen. He controlled the puck inside the Latvian blueline before delivering a soft pass to Jonas Holos at the point. His slapshot was beautifully tripped by Lars Erik Spets as he skated through the slot in front of Edgars Masalskis in the Latvian net.

The Latvians regained the lead at 17:22 when the right-handed shooting Herberts Vasiljevs came off the left boards, cut to the side of a Norwegian defenceman and let go a quick shot that fooled Grotnes to the stick side.

Mikelis Redlihs upped the count to 3-1 early in the second period. Standing almost at the goal line, he waited for Grotnes to go down and fired a shot to the far side from an angle the goalie couldn’t have expected a goal. The score came at 2:27 and seemed to demoralize Norway. Latvia controlled the rest of the period, and although it didn’t score again the 3-1 leads after 40 minutes seemed secure.

In the third period, the Norwegians tried to mount a rally but Latvia played textbook defence and controlled play in their own end. Masalskis shut the door in goal, playing his best hockey of the tournament to date when it mattered most. Lauris Darzins added an empty-net goal to complete the scoring.

"We need to relax but be focused and prepare for the Germans," Redlihs noted, looking ahead to the team's critical game tomorrow.

"We have to get back to the basics, the way we were playing earlier in the tournament," Bastiansen offered in reference to his team's narrow 2-1 loss to Canada and 3-2 overtime loss to Finland earlier in the tournament. "We have to limit chances to the other team, and let our goalie see the shots."





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