Slovakia 7 - Latvia 4
SLOVAK SNIPERS OUTGUN LATVIA IN SHOOTOUT
It was almost as if Slovak teammates Stanislav Lascek and Marek Zagrapan were back in the QMJHL Tuesday night. The two Chicoutimi Sagueens combined for 10 points in Team Slovakia’s 7-4 win over Latvia in Kelowna. It was Slovakia’s first game of the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Lascek, the QMJHL’s leading scorer, tallied three goals and two assists, while Zagrapan, the Q’s twelfth-leading scorer, had one goal and four assists. Juraj Gracik and Erik Piatak also scored for the Slovaks.
“It’s nice to play with [Lascek],” said Zagrapan of his linemate. “He sees the ice very well. I receive a lot of nice passes.”
It didn’t start out so well for the Slovaks despite the final score. Latvia jumped out quickly, outshooting the Slovaks 6-0 at one point and hitting a post in the process. The Slovaks didn’t register a shot until a power play 10 minutes into the first period. But once they got rolling, they took over the game.
Lascek set up Boris Valabik for Slovakia’s first goal on a power play at 11:42 of the first period, and the Slovaks would never trail in the game.
“This game [started] the same as the pre-tournament game,” said Lascek, referring to the Slovak loss to Latvia in exhibition play. “We went out and we slept. We didn’t hit them and they hit some cross bars and some posts. But we had three posts as well. We had a bad start but after that we were playing good.”
“The guys were scared a little bit, but after [the start] we had a good result,” said Sajban. “We know tomorrow is a tough game for us and we need to change more. We will use four lines but this evening was a good win.”
The Latvians kept it interesting for the Kelowna crowd, four times closing to within three goals. But they could never get any closer, and the Slovaks glided to the victory.
The Latvians may have been outplayed on the ice but they were definitely crowd favourites, as the 5,790 fans in attendance cheered the underdogs on right from the pre-game introductions.
Latvian Head Coach Olegs Znaroks said it was very nice to be the crowd favourites, but added a caveat.
“We made very serious mistakes,” Znaroks said. “I’ll say if the players are at this level they shouldn’t be paying attention to the crowd, they should be paying attention to the game.”
The Slovaks can’t rest on their laurels, as they have to dig in for a huge test Wednesday night in Kelowna when they take on Team Russia at 19:00.
At 0-2, the Latvians are in danger of being consigned to the Relegation Round. They will meet the high-flying Russians on Thursday in Kamloops before playing the Swedes on Friday.
PREVIEW: SLOVAKIA - LATVIA
By Kevin Parnell
Slovakia: The Slovaks enter the 2006 World Juniors looking to make a statement and become one of the contending teams. Tonight they open the tournament against Latvia, a team they should beat, but lost to in exhibition play. This year, Slovakia will look to its defence to lead the way with a large, tough blueline that includes some notable NHL prospects. Andrej Sekera, a 2004 Buffalo Sabres third-round draft pick, has earned 43 points in 34 games with the Owen Sound Attack this season. Boris Valabik of the Kitchener Rangers, who went #10 overall to Atlanta in 2005, brings a big, tough, mean presence. Vladimir Mihalik, whose rights belong to Tampa, embodies many of the same qualities as Valabik with the Red Deer Rebels. Valabik is one of the only returning players from last year’s Slovak team, which had a disappointing seventh place finish at the WJC. Up front, the Slovaks will rely heavily on a pair of Chicoutimi Sagueneens, forwards as linemates Marek Zagrapan and Stanislav Lascek will skate along with Montreal draft choice Juraj Mikus on the top line. Slovakia was 0-and-2 in WJC exhibition play, losing 3-2 to Finland and 5-1 to Latvia.
Latvia: Team Latvia is coming off a 5-1 loss at the hands of the Czech Republic Monday night in Kamloops in its first-ever game in the top division at the World Juniors. The Latvians will look to bounce back tonight in Kelowna, but will need to get more shots on goal and keep the quick Slovaks out of their zone if they hope to earn the win. Latvia allowed 39 shots on netminder Ugis Avotins and only mustered 20 shots on goal in their opening loss. The Latvians should be better tonight, having gotten over the first-game jitters. Gints Meija had the lone goal for Latvia Monday and the team will need more production from iother forwards, including Jurjis Klujevskis, one of their offensive leaders. It’s also time for a pair of Moncton Wildcats, Martin Karsums and Oskars Bartulis, to step up and compete tonight.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications