HELSINKI – Germany dealt Latvia’s fading quarter-final hopes a blow and kept its own alive with a 2-0 victory on Saturday at Hartwall Arena. Goalie Rob Zepp got his second consecutive shutout and Christoph Ullmann tallied the winning goal.
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Latvia, with three points, has two round-robin games left against France (Monday) and Finland (Tuesday). Germany, with seven points, faces the Americans (Sunday) and France (Tuesday).
"We just need to win the next game," said Latvian assistant captain Janis Sprukts. "That’s the most important thing for us now."
Patrick Hager also scored for Germany.
Zepp got the call in net again after blanking Austria 2-0 on Wednesday.
"I think we’ve just stayed true to ourselves," said Zepp. "Nothing comes easy for this team. We have to work at it for 60 minutes. We made a few mistakes in the first few games, but I think we’ve limited them in the last two. We’ve been getting results and we’re very happy with that."
Kristers Gudlevskis appeared between the pipes for Latvia for the second straight time. Longtime starter Edgars Masalskis accumulated a less-than-sparkling 5.00 GAA and 80.3 percentage in the team’s first three games. Gudlevskis, a 20-year-old who plays for the KHL’s Dynamo Riga, also started in Latvia’s 5-3 win over Slovakia.
At last year’s Worlds, Latvia edged Germany 3-2. Unsurprisingly, this battle was similarly tight and hard-fought. The competition continued off the ice, with the singing and clapping of German fans up against the chanting and drum-beating of their Latvian counterparts.
In the first period, the Latvians failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage lasting over a minute. Miks Indrasis couldn’t finish off a breakaway with under two minutes left even though he forced Germany’s Marcel Goc into a slashing penalty.
At 8:05 of the second period, Germany drew first blood. Philip Gogulla circled around the Latvian net and backhanded a centering pass to Ullmann, who blasted it over the glove of Gudlevskis.
"We always keep the third guy high, and it’s always tough for the two wingers to battle down low and protect the pucks," explained Ullmann. "I had an opportunity to step in and get a shot away. My wingers did a great job, and I hit it well. As long as I can help the team to win, it’s a great feeling."
Hager stretched Germany's lead to 2-0 at 3:05 of the final stanza, coming in over the blueline and unleashing a shot that deflected off the skate of retreating Latvian defenceman Maris Jass.
Zepp was there to stone Indrasis when the Latvian forward moved into the slot and sent a hard wrister on net halfway through the third.
The Germans checked vigorously to protect their lead down the stretch. Latvia called its timeout with under two minutes to go, but never got anything going.
Germany's Yannic Seidenberg was felled in the last minute by an open-ice, blindside hit by Martins Cipulis. The resulting five-minute major and game misconduct killed any Latvian hopes of a miracle comeback.
"It was really important for us to get this win tonight," said Ullmann. "We have two games left against the U.S. and France, and I guess there are some points there for us to collect. We’re in a good position here right now."
Latvian forward Zemgus Girgensons did not suit up for this game. He was serving a one-game suspension for a butt-ending incident involving Slovakia’s Branislav Mezei.