BRATISLAVA Ė Slovenia's journey through the Relegation Round got off to a great start as the team beat Latvia 5-2. Rok Ticar and Tomaz Razingar scored twice, Rok Pajic added another. Robert Kristan made 29 saves.
Slovenia - Latvia 5-2 (0-0, 3-0, 2-2) Game Sheet Photos
"I don't think they expected to play in the Relegation Round, and we took advantage of that, and had 100 percent focus and motivation in the game. We wanted this win more than they," Jeglic said.
"This was a big step for us, we played with heart, and our win was very clear," said Slovene forward Ziga Jeglic
Slovenia had never beaten Latvia at a World Championship. In fact, it had only scored two goals in the three games the teams played since 2005. Both teams base their game on the solid performances of their goaltenders; Latvia on Edgars Masalskis, Slovenia on Robert Kristan. Masalskis was named one of Latviaís best three players in both 2009 and 2010, and Kristanís 95.24 was the fifth best save percentage in the tournament before todayís game.
The game flowed from end to end in the first period, with both teams creating several high-quality scoring chances, only to be followed by equally high-quality saves by Masalskis and Kristan. And when the goalies were outplayed, Lady Luck showed up to protect the nets, like when Juris Stals had a wide open net in front of him, but shot the puck too high. Latvia outshot Slovenia 9-7 in the first period, and had a bit of an edge.
The tables were turned in the second period, when Slovenia got its fourth power play opportunity in the game. Mitja Robar had the puck on the blueline, he sent it to Ziga Jeglic down low. Jeglic waited for the Latvian defenceman to take the bait, and when he stepped a little closer, Jeglic sent the puck through to the other side to Roc Tikar who onetimed it in, beating Masalskis high on the stick side, at 7:59.
The goal forced Latvia to play a little less carefully, and at 13:55 team captain Tomas Razingar took a pass from Marcel Rodman from the left, and slammed it past Masalskis to give Slovenia a two-goal lead. David Rodman collected an assist.
The same trio scored again with 49 seconds remaining on the clock, this time, a mirror image of the 2-0 goal as David Rodman flew down the ice on the right lane, and sent it to Marcel who found Razingar in front of the net. Razingar scored his second of the night, the Rodmans picked up their second points of the game.
Latvia was sure to get a strong start for the third period, but instead, Slovenia scored their fourth when a slap shot got deflected off a Latvian defenceman, straight to Tikar, who shot the puck with a backhander through his legs, with his back to the goal, and beat Masalskis.
"We were trying to play our game, but I think they played our game. There were too many odd-man rushes against us. Itís just impossible to do that against a team like Slovenia that plays that style, sitting back and waiting for their scoring chances," said Latvian forward Herberts Vasiljevs.
"They had a couple of chances and they put the puck in the net. It was so hard to come back. We ran out of energy," he added.
When Rok Pajic scored with a wrist shot from the slot in the next shift, Masalskis had got enough, and Latvia made a goalie change, sending Martins Raitums in for the first time in this World Championship.
Martins Cipulis got Latvia on the board at 11:33. Jekabs Redlihs went around the net, and as Kristans followed the puck carrier, his stick got tangled up in the net. The puck bounced to the front of the net and Cipulis had no trouble sending the puck to the back of the net to make it 5-1.
The last faceoff of the game came with 3.4 seconds remaining, in the Slovenian zone. Latvia won it, and Roberts Bukarts scored Latvia's second of the night, deflecting a slapshot from the blueline into the net, to seal the final score, 5-2.
"We didn't make any upsets in the Preliminary Round, the big teams were still a little better, but we have to regroup now, and try to win all three games in the Relegation Round," Jeglic said.
For Latvia, the uphill got a little steeper.
"We just canít think about it that way right now. We need a couple of wins in a row. It doesnít really matter if itís 0-5 or 2-5 if we lose the next two games. Itís going to be important if we keep winning. Right now, weíve got to completely refocus and regroup and try to play our style," Vasiljevs said.