KOSICE, Slovakia – With their back’s firmly pressed against the wall Latvia has lived to see at least one more day, defeating Belarus 6-3 at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships.
Having lost their three pool matches and then suffered humiliation at the hands of Slovenia, Latvia were within 60 minutes of losing their place in the Elite Division for 2012; something that would prove to be more than enough motivation for the Latvians who had the Belarusian’s reeling before the opening period had even finished. The champagne corks are still however firmly embedded in their bottles with Latvia still needing to get up over Austria this evening to maintain their Elite Division status.
Not for the first time in this tournament Latvia began strongly but for the first time in the tournament they were able to push the advantage home, going up 3-0 within 18 minutes in a near perfect open period.
On their opening power play of the match in the 10th minute, Arvids Rekis took just six seconds to take advantage of the extra man on the ice, firing a wrist shot that was tipped in by Martins Cipulis for the 1-0 lead.
Belarus was soon after again pinged for an infringement, giving Latvia another power play which they would again pounce on, with Georgijs Pujacs taking advantage of a melee in front of the Belarus net to slip the puck past Andrei Mezin.
The lead would increase to three in the 18th minute when Mikelis Redlihs did the hard work before setting up Pujacs for his second goal in four minutes.
Just when it looked like Latvia would head into the break 3-0 up, Belarus struck back with their opening goal with 28 seconds remaining to keep them in touch.
Following their late goal in the first, Belarus’s confidence continued to build in the second period when they hit on a power play in the opening minute of play to signal game on.
Latviawas not making the going easy on themselves as they then went on to give up three power plays in the next ten minutes to give Belarus plenty of opportunities to find the equalizer. But having successfully defended on the three power plays Aleksandrs Nizivijs left Belarus hurting by adding his side’s fourth goal in the 37th minute.
Having opened the scoring, Cipulis then all but confirmed the win for Latvia by adding a second with a little over ten minutes to play. It then fell to Kaspars Saulietis to put the icing on the cake with his side’s sixth and final goal in the 58th minute.
Similar to Latvia in their game against Slovenia, Belarus would return some respectability to the score line with their third and final goal with ten seconds to play.