BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Latvia has lost their final pool match at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships in a shootout with Denmark, now leaving them facing the very real possibility of relegation from the world’s elite division.
Having done the difficult work by pushing the World Champion Czechs to the death and claiming a point from their shootout loss to Finland, Latvia simply needed to beat the lowly ranked Danes in their final pool match. But an inability to convert a wealth of opportunities has cost them dearly with Denmark winning 3-2 in a shootout to book the final playoff spot available in Group D.
Latvianow find themselves in a position they have not been in since 2007, as they face relegation alongside Belarus, Slovenia and Austria. The four sides will play each other with the top two teams guaranteed of their place in the elite division in 2012 while the other two teams will be demoted to Division 1.
Latviamanaged 39 shots on goal compared to 29 from the Danes but Frederik Andersen was a rock in the Danish goal with the frustration growing in the Latvian camp with every shot he saved.
Latviasuffered the worst possible start to the game when Mads Christensen was allowed to get off a slap shot in just the second minute of action to have Denmark up 1-0 and the Latvian’s reeling.
It was mixed emotions for Latvia in a tumultuous beginning to the second period. Denmark looked to go 2-0 ahead only for Martins Cipulis to hook Morten Green to save an almost certain goal. Disaster would then strike on the resulting power play when star forward Lauris Darzins was struck in the knee by the puck. He would not return to the ice for the remainder of the match. Having served his two minutes Cipulis would then go some way to lightening the mood in the Latvian camp as he put the finishing tap on a long shot from Oskars Cibulskis. Aleksandrs Nizivijs was also credited with the assist.
The Danish however wasted little time in once again going ahead as Christensen picked up his second goal of the night during a power play in the 29th minute. Power plays dominated proceedings in the second period and it was not long before Latvia made the most of one going in their favor in the 36th minute. Again it was Nizivijs setting up, this time for Jekabs Redlihs.
Knowing that they needed to win in regular time to guarantee their spot in the next round Latvia lifted the offensive in the third period, firing 14 shots on goal compared to five from Denmark but they simply could not find a way through the Danish defense.
Overtime came and went without any further drama, leaving Latvia facing their second shootout in as many games. Unfortunately for the Latvians the result went the same way as it had against Finland, leaving the Latvian camp looking dispirited and in need of a serious boost ahead of their match against Slovenia at 16.15 today.