Norway and Latvia earned promotion to the 2006 IIHF World U20 Championship in Vancouver, Canada by winning their respective Division I groups on Sunday, December 19. Norway posted a perfect 5-0-0 record in Sheffield, Great Britain to win Group A, while Latvia survived a last-day thriller and defeated Slovenia 6-5 in Narva, Estonia to win the very tight Group B with a 4-1-0 record.
Norway last participation in the top pool of the IIHF World U20 Championship dates back to 1991, while Canada 2006 will be Latvia’s first-ever participation in elite group of the “World Juniors”.
Slovenia needed to win the last game against Latvia to win the group and the game became a show of “duelling banjos” between the two outstanding forwards of the tournament, Slovenia’s Anze Kopitar (born –87) and Latvia’s Martins Karsums (born –86).
Kopitar, who plays his club hockey in Sweden’s Sodertalje SK, scored three goals for Slovenia, but Karsums replied with a hat-trick of his own as he scored Latvia’s three last goals to finally win the thriller.
Kopitar led the tournament in scoring with a highly impressive 10 goals and three assists in five games, while Karsums, of the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL, came in second with seven goals and three assists in five games. Karsums was a 64th overall selection of the Boston Bruins in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
Due to their perfect record in Sheffield, Norway will come in as the ninth ranked team to Vancouver 2006, while Latvia will be ranked tenth.