The Latvian national men’s hockey team’s build-up to the IIHF 2012 World Championships took a major step in the right direction last week in Denmark, with the team recording back-to-back wins over their hosts. In the opening game played in Odense on April 11, Roberts Bukarts put the visitors ahead in the eighth minute before Miks Indrasis doubled the lead in the 45th. Denmark answered back with just over seven minutes remaining, but Maris Jucers kept his calm, assuring no more shots got past him in the final minutes. Two nights later in Vojense, the maroon-and-whites were even more convincing, running out to a 3-0 lead by the end of the second third before finally settling for a 4-1 win. Indrasis and Bukarts again contributed a goal apiece, whilst Martins Cipulis and Koba Jass chipped in with the other two. The build-up work for Ted Nolan’s team continues this week at Arena Riga when the Latvians host their old foes, Russia. The opening face-off on Friday night takes place at 19:30, whilst play gets underway in the second game at 17:00 on Saturday. The final warm-up games takes place against France, also in Arena Riga, a week later before the team begins their World Championship campaign in Stockholm, Sweden on May 5 when they once more come up against Russia.
Football clubs Skonto and Liepajas Metalurgs will battle it out for the 2012 Latvian Cup after last week winning their respective semi-final clashes against Gulbene and Jelgava. It was a particularly dominant performance from the Metalurgs, who went a long way to securing a semi-finals’ berth early with Jurgis Kalns and Ritus Krjauklis both striking for the visitors within the opening 15 minutes. The lead was then extended to three on the hour mark when Vladimirs Kamess hit past Marks Bogdanovs. Boriss Bogdaskins pulled one back for the hosts three minutes later, but when Roberts Savalnieks hit home in the 71st minute, any hopes Jelgava held of coming back were laid to rest. In the second semi-final clash, the one-sided affair that so many had predicted to take place failed to unfold as the heavily unfavored Gulbene pushed Skonto the distance, only to suffer heartbreak in the 93rd minute when Aleksandrs Fertovs broke the 0-0 deadlock to send the Riga club into the final. The final will take place in Liepaja on May 12.
Estonian cyclist Rein Taaramae has made an earlier-than-expected recovery from mononucleosis, more commonly known as glandular fever, returning to compete in the three-day Vuelta A Castilla Y Leon in Spain over the weekend. Having first been diagnosed with symptoms of the virus in February, Estonia’s top pro cyclist was facing a potentially lengthy stint on the sidelines. However, after claiming to have gone 10 days feeling strong and healthy, the 24-year-old was able to convince his Cofidis team coach, doctor and boss to let him race in the mountainous three day tour. Taaramae wrote on his Estonian language blog that, “The main goal is to finish the tour at a nice clip and also to get a better feeling of my health. It won’t be easy because I have a few additional kilos, and the second and third days of Castilla consist of dense mountains.” Indeed, it did not prove easy going and after finishing near the rear of the field over the first two days, the Estonian withdrew during the third and final stage on Sunday, suggesting there are still some lingering issues over his health.