SWEDES HAMMER WEARY-LOOKING LATVIANS
By Joe Fries |
Sweden hammered Latvia 10-2 in Kamloops Friday night, taking another step towards securing a quarter-final
berth. The game was Team Latvia’s final outing in Round Robin play.
Never letting up on their opponents, Sweden attempted to pad their goals-for total in case it’s needed to
break a tie in determining the team’s fate after the Round Robin portion of the tournament in a tight Group B
The Swedes outshot Latvia 58-17, and dominated play from the opening faceoff.
Coming off a hard-fought battle versus Russia last night, an obviously drained Latvian squad simply could not
handle the well-rested Swedes.
“We came out a little bit tired. We tried as best we could, but they were faster,” said Latvia’s Janis
Andersons, who, coincidentally, plays on a club team in Sweden. On this night, Andersons’ U20 team was
outshot 27-4 in the first period, and trailed Sweden 4-1 after the opening frame.
“We moved the puck with good speed and got some goals early,” said Sweden’s Nicklas Bergfors, summing up his
team’s victory. He had four points on the night-one goal and three assists. His teammate, Nicklas Backstrom
also had a four-point night, with a hat trick and one assist. Sebastian Karlsson, Mattias Ritola and Frederik
Pettersson each collected three points in a game that saw 10 different Swedish players figure into the
Martins Karsums and Edzus Karklins scored for Latvia, while Kaspars Saulietis, Jurijs Klujevskis, Martins
Skuska and Andis Abolins each added an assist.
Sweden got on the board just 1:06 into the first period when the puck came loose from a goalmouth scramble
and Sebastian Karlsson fired it over Latvian netminder Ugis Avotins, who was down on all fours.
At the 12:00 mark, Sweden was already outshooting Latvia 18-2. The Swedes made it 2-0 when the rebound from
Bergfors’ wrap-around attempt slipped out to Backstrom, who shelfed it at 14:40 on the power play.
Sweden’s second power play goal of the period came a little over a minute later at 15:57, when Alexander
Edler’s point shot deflected off Tobias Viklund, who was parked in front of the Latvian net, putting the
Swedes up 3-0.
Latvia’s Martins Kaspars got one back for his team when he fired a shot through a tangle of legs to break
Swedish goalie Magnus Akerlund’s goose-egg at 16:58 on a wraparound play much like the Swedes’ second
At 18:17, on a 2-on-1, Pettersson took a pass from Ritola and wired it past Avotins, who couldn’t get over
fast enough to stop the shot. He sat on the ice afterwards, apparently dazed by the Swedish onslaught. Their
second power play goal of the period put them up 4-1.
A trio of Team Sweden goals in the second period put the game beyond the reach of the Latvians.
Just 40 seconds in, with the Swedes on a power play and buzzing the Latvia zone, Bergfors took a pass from
Backstrom and fired it home. At 5:15, with Sweden once again storming the offensive zone, Backstrom picked up
Sebastian Karlsson’s drop-pass and slapped it past Avotins. With his team short-handed, Johannes Salmonsson
slipped past a Latvian defender all alone and slid the puck under Latvia’s netminder at 9:35, putting his
team up 7-1 heading into the final period of play, outshooting their opponents 16-8 in the second.
Sweden got off to another fast start in the third period, as Backstrom collected his third goal of the night
when he walked out from the corner and tucked a backhander through Avotins’ legs at 1:25.
Latvia’s second and final goal of the night came at 11:52, when Martins Skuska dashed around the Swedish net
and rang a shot off the post. Edzus Karklins corralled the rebound and fired it past Akerlund.
Unfazed by the goal, the Swedes got it back seven seconds later at 11:59 when, off the rush, Ritola fired a
one-timer from Petterson into the Latvian goal.
Pettersson notched the final goal of the game, a power play marker, at 17:42, when he collected a loose puck
off a faceoff in the Latvian zone and whipped it into the back of the net.
Despite allowing ten goals, Latvia’s netminder, Ugis Avotins, was named his team’s Player of the Game. He
received a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd, who took an obvious shine to the Latvian crew during
their games in Kamloops.
“It’s really great,” said Latvia’s Janis Andersons. “It’s real nice to play here. We thought [the fans] would
support the better teams.”
Latvia finished at the bottom of the Group B standings and will now wait to see who their opponents will be
in the Relegation Round. Head Coach Olegs Znaroks said through translator Maris Baldonieks that his players
will continue to give it their all, as their future in the IIHF World Junior Championships could be on the
“During these games we tried to play from beginning to end, [and] we will play this way in the Relegation
Round,” said Znaroks. “We still have a chance to stay in Group A.”
Sweden takes on Slovakia tomorrow night in Kamloops in a key game to determine where they will finish in
Group B Round Robin play.
By Joe Fries
Sweden: Coming off a solid victory over the Czechs on Wednesday, the Swedes need another win tonight to
stay on track for a quarter-finals berth. The Swedes demonstrated amazing puck control and a highly organized
offence versus the Czechs. Thus far, they’ve flown under most people’s radar, but they are a force to be
reckoned with and will have to step up their physical game against tonight’s opponent, something they’ve
shown they’re capable of in previous games. The Swedes rank near the bottom in every statistical category,
and they’ve have scored four goals while allowing six. Sebastian Karlsson has two points, as do Johannes
Salmonsson of the Spokane Chiefs and Nicklas Backstrom of Brynas. New Jersey Devils’ prospect Nicklas
Bergfors, who plays for the AHL’s Albany River Rats has just one point so far and is certainly capable of
more. Defenceman Alexander Edler of the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets has yet to notch a point but has anchored Team
Sweden’s back end. Magnus Akerlund and Daniel Larsson have each started one game in net for Sweden, but
Larsson, who backstopped his team to a 3-2 victory over the Czechs, looked solid and will likely get the
start again. As long as they put in a solid effort and stick to their game plan, Tre Kronor should be able to
knock off the Latvians.
Latvia: Though winless so far, the Latvians have shown that what they lack in skill, they more than make
up for in heart and passion. They’re playing for pride now, since they have a confirmed entry in the
Relegation Round after losing to Russia last night. The Latvians have shown that they’re not a team to be
taken lightly, though they’ve appeared to be overmatched against their opponents so far. Offence has been
spotty so far, a four-goal performance against Slovakia notwithstanding, and the defence has relied on the
stellar goaltending of Ugis Avotins. One highlight, however, has been the penalty-killing, which ranks
second-best in the tournament at 90.4 percent. Look for another gritty performance from the Latvians, who
will aim to play the spoiler role.