The 2008 IIHF Division I World Junior Championships are in the books, and Germany and Latvia have qualified for the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ottawa.
The Germans, who were relegated from the top flight following the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship in Leksand and Mora, Sweden, will return to tournament next year after rolling undefeated through the Division I Group A championship on home ice in Bad Tölz, outscoring the opposition 42-6 in five games.
Despite their dominance through the opening four contests, the Germans needed a win over fellow undefeated Austria, who felt right at home – Bad Tölz is located just 30 kilometres from the Austrian border, to qualify for Ottawa.
Three unanswered goals in the opening 40 minutes gave Germany a commanding lead, and despite a push from the Austrians in the final frame, the hosts, led by the tournament’s Top Forward (Frank Maurer), Top Defenseman (Christopher Fischer) and Top Goaltender (Timo Pielmeier), wrapped up a 6-3 win and a berth in the 2009 World Juniors.
Much like the Germans, the Latvians used home ice advantage to book their trip to the nation’s capital next December with victory in the Division I Group B championship in Riga.
A loss to Slovenia on the tournament’s second day put the Latvians in a must-win position against undefeated Belarus in the final game of the round-robin event, while the Belarussians, who had outscored their opponents 20-5 in their first four games, were looking to equal the feat of the Germans and return to the IIHF World Junior Championship after just a one-year absence.
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes, Latvia’s Arturs Kulda and Belarus’ Yuri Yeliseyenka traded goals in the middle frame, sending the deciding game to a deciding third period tied 1-1.
In front of their home fans the Latvians would not be denied in the final 20 minutes, outshooting the Belarussians 18-5. Kaspars Daugavins had the first opportunity, missing a penalty shot with just six minutes to go, but Janis Straupe scored the winner just 98 seconds later, and the hosts added an empty-netter to clinch a 3-1 win and a trip to Ottawa.