UFA – Slovakia stays in the Top Division for the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Ice Hockey World Championship in Malmö, Sweden, after edging Latvia 5-3.
It was a tight game between the Slovaks and the underdogs from the Baltic nation. Latvia outshot Slovakia 40-27 but Slovak goalkeeper Adam Nagy shone with 37 saves while Andrej Bires and Marko Dano each scored a pair of goals.
Karlis Ozolins opened the scoring for Latvia after just 86 seconds of play but after a shot from the blueline from Richard Mraz, Bires scored on the rebound at 14:03 just a few seconds after the end of a Slovak man advantage.
Midway through the game Slovakia netted two goals within a span of less than three minutes. First Tomas Mikus hit the back of the net, then Dano capitalized on a Slovak power play.
Latvian coach Leonids Tambijevs pulled his goalkeeper Elvis Merzlikins and brought in Ivars Punnenovs. His team reacted in the third period and seemed to be back on track after goals from Nikita Jevpalovs at 5:14 and Edgars Kulda at 10:22.
However, the Slovaks regain the lead with Bires’ 4-3 goal with 5:25 left in regulation time that turned out to become the game-winning goal. With 13 seconds left on the clock Dano also scored his second goal into an empty net.
Thanks to the win Slovakia will remain in the Top Division and tomorrow’s game against Finland will become a match for seventh place at the tournament.
Latvia and Germany will battle it out for ninth place at 15:00 at the Sports Palace. The loser of that game will be relegated to Division I.
Last year Latvia saved its berth in the Top Division by sending down Denmark while Germany was promoted from Division I last year.