Latvia 4 - Norway 0
LATVIANS FINISH NINTH WITH WIN OVER NORWAY
By Greg Alexis | Box Score
In the fight for ninth place in the tournament, Latvia claimed its first-ever win in WJC history by rolling over Norway 4-0 at the Pacific Coliseum.
Boston Bruins prospect Martin Karsums had a goal and an assist, including the game-winner, while goaltender Ugis Avotins made 22 saves for the shutout.
“It feels really good to win our first game,” said Karsums. “We went out there flying and were able to score some goals.”
A game that was supposed to be a close one, given the similar records of both teams, turned out to be a one-sided affair.
After losing a heartbreaker the day before to the Slovaks 4-3, Norway looked insipid while letting the Latvian squad dominate them on both sides of the puck.
“We didn’t have anything to play for,” said Norwegian forward Morten Rolstad. “It was a good tournament. We played a couple of good games and a couple of bad games.”
In a penalty-filled first period, Latvia controlled most of the play, outshooting the Norwegians 14-9. Had it not been for the play of Norwegian goaltender Ruben Smith, the game could have been over in a hurry, as he kept his team in the period making a couple of key stops.
With Norway shorthanded, Smith came across his crease to rob Latvian forward Kapars Saulietus who was parked all alone at the side of the net. Moments later, Smith was at it again making a nice toe-save on a Sergejs Pecura one-timer from low in the slot.
Latvia got on the board in the last minute of the period while on the power play. With Norway’s Martin Roymark off for holding, Karsums took a breakout pass from Arturs Kulda and skated down the right wing. The Moncton Wildcats forward let go a slapshot from just outside the face-off circle that Smith thought he had, but the puck slipped through his five-hole and slowly rolled over the goal line.
The second period saw more of the same from the Latvian squad, and their strong play earned them a pair of goals.
At 14:45 of the period, Latvia’s Eduards Bullitis converted a backhand pass at the side of net to put his squad up 2-0.
Latvia went up 3-0 four minutes later when Gints Meija took a pass at the Norwegian blue line and went in all alone, making a nice backhand move to beat Smith stick side.
Norway’s best chance in the second period came at 12:47, when Joakim Jensen’s shot beat Avotins but rang off the post the post.
“We didn’t take the chances we got,” said Norwegian Assistant Coach Anders Blegeberg. “We made some good saves, but we couldn’t deliver on the other possibilities.”
The third period saw a more even match-up, but the Norwegians still couldn’t beat Avotins.
“The whole tournament he played excellent,” said Karsums. “It’s a lot easier when you know you have a third defenseman behind you.”
Latvia scored its final goal of the game on the power play when Sergejs Pecura tipped home a point shot with less than three minutes left.
Final shots favoured Latvia 36-22.
Although Norway didn’t manage a win at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship, finishing with six losses, the team seemed proud of its experience in Vancouver.
“I think this was a perfect opportunity for Norwegian hockey,” said Blegberg. “We got to play against some of the best players, which is something you can learn from.”
PREVIEW: LATVIA - NORWAY
By Greg Alexis
Latvia: This is the final game of the tournament for both teams, and will determine who finishes ninth. Although the Latvians still have not yet won a game at this year’s World Juniors, they should not be taken lightly by Norway. During the Round Robin portion of the tournament, Latvia lost badly to both the Swedes and Czech Republic, but did manage to give the eventual finalists from Russia a true test, losing only 3-1. Latvian Head Coach Olegs Znaroks will have his team prepared, as he will want to show the hockey world that his players will not go down without a fight in their first-ever World Junior tournament. Expect Ugis Avotnis to get the start in net, as he has seen almost all the action in the tournament so far. Up front, expect Boston Bruins draft pick Martins Karsums to lead the way, with a team-best four points heading in.
Norway: After qualifying for this year’s tournament by going undefeated at the 2005 Division I tournament, Team Norway was hoping to make some noise at this year’s WJC, but so far it hasn’t gone that way. Norway lost all four of its Round Robin games and blew a 3-1 lead and fell 4-3 to Slovakia in its first Relegation Round meeting. The Norwegians will want to avoid a last-place finish after coming into this year’s tournament with a little momentum. Norway could go with either goalie today, as Lars Haugen played versus Slovakia, but Ruben Smith has also appeared in several games. Jonas Holos and Kristian Forsberg were supposed to lead the way in scoring at the outset of the tournament but so far, both players have only combined for two points. Holos and Forsberg will need to elevate their game for Norway to pick up the win. Getting ninth place is all about showing some pride.
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