HALIFAX – Latvia beat Slovenia 3-0 at the Metro Centre to advance to the Qualification Round. The Slovenians will now play in the Relegation Round after finishing fourth in Group B while Latvia advances to the Qualification Round.
The star of the game, however, was Slovenia goalie Robert Kristan who made several brilliant saves. Aleksandrs Nizivijs and Aleksejs Sirokovs (with two goals) scored for Latvia. Edgars Masalskis earned the shutout for Latvia which outshot its opponents, 38-17.
Despite several power plays in the first period, there were few scoring chances. The most obvious exception was a penalty shot taken by Martins Cipulis. Latvia was awarded the freebie when Guntis Galvins was hauled down after getting in the clear. Kristan made the great save, but referee Brent Reiber called for the puck to go to centre ice. Galvins was selected by coach Olegs Znaroks to take the shot, but Galvins made a deke to his forehand and shot high and wide.
The period ended without a goal, although Latvia held a wide margin in shots, 12-4, and had four of the six power-play chances.
"We weren't worried," Aleksandrs Nizivijs said. "We knew after the first period that eventually we would score. If we didn't get any scoring chances, that would be bad, but we felt good even though it was 0-0."
Improbably, the Latvians scored the game’s first goal on a second penalty shot in the second period, again after a tackle on a breakaway. Daugavins was hauled down at 9:55, and on the bonus shot Cipulis deked Kristan, outwaited him, and roofed the puck past the sprawled goalie. It was Latvia’s 24th shot to only five by Slovenia.
"I just tried to see what the goalie was doing and then try to do the opposite," Nizivijs said of his strategy.
A minute later, the Latvians converted a 2-on-1 to go ahead 2-0. Aleksejs Sirokovs nailed a pretty pass from Cipulis and made no mistake in beating the diving Kristan. Sirokovs added an empty netter in the final minute to complete the scoring.
The rest of the game was dominated by the Latvians who kept Slovenia and its greatest players, Anze Kopitar and Tomaz Razingar, at bay. Indeed, the margin of play was so great the result seemed never in doubt once the Latvians scored the first goal.
"We knew if we could stop Kopitar and Razingar from being good in our end that we would have a very good chance to win," Nizivijs noted. He was right. Slovenia has scored only two goals in three games, both by Kopitar. Razingar assisted on both.