Dmitrij Jaskin's goal with just 6:14 left in regulation broke a 2-2 tie and led the Czech Republic to a crucial 4-2 win in Group A play at the Sports Palace tonight.
With the loss the winless Latvians (0-0-4) now head to the Relegation Round. With the win, the Czechs have six points, good for second place in Group B, and still have a chance to finish first in the group depending on the outcome of their game against the Swiss tomorrow as well as the result from the Sweden-Finland clash earlier in the day.
Defenceman Martin Frk scored two goals for the winners on shots from the point.
Although the Czechs dominated the first period, they came out of it with nothing more than a tie. Credit goes to Latvia, though, as the team collapsed around its goalie, Ivars Punnenovs, and made it difficult for the Czechs to penetrate the dangerous area in front of the net.
Jan Stencel made a sensational saucer pass across the width of the ice in the Latvian zone right onto the stick of Petr Beranek, and his quick shot from the back side found the open net to stake the Czechs to a 1-0 lead at 9:55.
The Czechs continued to maintain puck possession and use their larger bodies and extra strength to control play, but the Latvians tied the game at 18:33 on a scramble in front of goalie Patrik Bartosak. Nikita Jevpalovs banged the puck in, and just like that it was 1-1.
"After we got the first goal we took some penalties and let Latvia get back in the game," Frk noted. "They scored and played a very good game."
The Czechs went up 2-1 at 2:01 of the second on a power play when Frk’s great one-timer from the point snuck through the pads of Punnenovs. Petr Sidlik made the pass across to tee it up for Frk.
"I don't know where it went, but the coach is always telling me to just shoot from the blue line because I have a hard shot, so that's what I tried to do."
That proved to be the only goal of a tame period. Both teams also had two power plays but could do little in close to generate scoring chances.
The Latvians tied the game again just 1:59 into the third period when the Lipsbergs brothers combined for a goal. Kriss's point shot was stopped by Bartosak, but Roberts swooped in and pushed the rebound over the goal line before any Czech defenceman could take him out of the play.
Jaskin's goal was the game winner. It was a low shot that came on a lengthy delayed penalty in which Bartosak went to the bench for a sixth attacker.
"I just got the puck and made a fake and then took a shot. I was just trying to get it on the net. I was lucky," Jaskin said.
Frk closed out the scoring with another point shot that went all the way.
Shots favoured the Czechs, 40-20.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)