"Latvia played a really good hockey game. We couldn’t reach the level
we wanted to. We lost a game but at the same time we just have to focus
on our next game against the USA," Swedish coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson
Naturally, for Latvia, the big was an important one.
"I’m just happy, I really wanted to win this game," Latvian coach Olegs Znaroks said.
"Every victory means happiness,” he added.
was the key word in the Group C game between Sweden and Latvia. Both
teams entered the game with a plan, stuck to it.
"We knew we’d
have to defend, and work as a team. Sweden is a great team so we wanted
to keep the pressure on and focus on chances on our powerplay,"
defenceman Krisjanis Redlihs said.
Sweden got off to a good
start, taking control of the game early on. Latvia, on the other hand,
focused on playing solid defence, and playing the puck quickly out of
its own zone, then following it up with an attack if possible.
Aleksandrs Nizivijs's two-minute penalty for hooking gave Sweden the
momentum even if Tre Kronor couldn’t capitalize on the powerplay.
15:26, Linus Omark followed his linemate Johan Harju’s drive to the
net. Harju took a shot which Latvian goaltender Edgars Masalskis
blocked but the rebound bounced straight to Omark, who had an easy job
tipping the puck into an empty net.
The second period went
according to the same script until Krisjanis Redlihs sent a blistering
slapshot from the blueline during Omark’s high sticking penalty and
beat Sweden’s goaltender Stefan Liv high on the glove side, it turned
into a whole other story.
Latvia created more scoring chances,
and even if Sweden outshot Latvia 24-16 in the first two periods, Liv
had to make a series of excellent saves during the second half of the
With 45 seconds remaining in the second period,
Krisjanis’s little brother Mikelis Redlihs shook off a Swedish
defenceman behind the Swedish net and sent a backhand pass across the
crease. Lauris Darzins out Swedish fans into a state of shock when he
tipped the puck in.
In a mirror image of the end of the second
period, Sweden tied the games 44 seconds into the third on powerplay.
Magnus Johansson took a pass from Loui Eriksson, and onetimed a
slapshot behind Masalskis.
At 51:04, there was a long stoppage
of play after Sweden's Tobias Enström injured his face after he got
slammed into the boards in the corner by Martins Karsums. He left the
game, leaving Sweden with just four defencemen since Kenny Jonsson quit
the game after the first period, due to a hip injury.
puck was dropped again, Sweden looked determined to get the winning
goal, forcing Latvia to ice the puck several times.
The Latvian defence held tight, and the game was tied after 60 minutes of play.
After a goalless overtime, the game was decided on a penalty shootout.
coach Olegs Znaroks surprised even his own team by switching goalies,
sending 40-year-old Sergejs Naumovs in for the shootout.
"I was surprised when the coach changed the goalies, but it worked out," Krisjanis Redlihs said, grinning.
worked. Naumovs made two key saves. First, he stopped Patrik Berglund,
then Johansson, giving Nizivijs, Latvia's fourth shooter, a chance to
give Latvia the edge.
He fooled Liv in the Swedish goal and
sealed Latvia's first ever win over Sweden. In the eleven previous
matches (nine in World Championships, one at the Olympics, and one
exhibition game) Sweden's record was 10W-1T.