Oppenheimer does it again

German forward gets a second penalty shot winner

11.05.2014
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Germany's Thomas Oppenheimer (#19) celebrates after his team took a 1-0 lead over Latvia. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

Just 24 hours after settling a shoot-out against Kazakhstan, Thomas Oppenheimer kept his cool once again to fire home a 55th-minute winner against Latvia.

Thomas Oppenheimer kept his nerve for the second game running to give Germany victory with a penalty shot.

This time his game-winner came during regulation time, winning his duel with goalie Kristers Gudlevskis and snapping a 2-2 tie in the 56th minute. It was a move reminiscent of his shoot-out winner 24 hours earlier against Kazakhstan, finding the five-hole to exact maximum punishment after Georgijs Pujacs tugged the Hamburg Freezers' forward back as he bore down on Gudlevskis.

"It feels pretty good to score them but you always need a little bit of luck with a penalty shot," Oppenheimer said after the game. "It's a 50-50 chance and I've been lucky twice now.

"You always look at the goalie when you go up there and wait for the right moment when you can shoot. This time was a bit similar to yesterday's, you always have an idea when you go up there but in the end you decide what to do when you see the goalie."

It wasn't quite the end of the action: Latvia had twice found equalizing goals earlier in the game and poured forward once again in the last moments in search of a dramatic finish. But Philipp Grubauer stood firm, pulling off a last-minute save from Guntis Galvins before repelling the final storm as Latvia desperately tried to force overtime.

Both teams came into this game off the back of victories in their opening skirmishes, but the manner of those successes spoke much of their relative ambitions in this competition. For Latvia a first-ever win over Finland opened up a path to a place in the quarter-finals, while Germany's edged a narrow verdict over Kazakhstan gave it an important boost in the battle among Group B's strugglers.

But, as the German adage has it, einaml ist keinmal - once is nothing - and both teams were back on the ice within 24 hours looking for a result that would consolidate those initial gains.

Germany took the lead in the 13th minute with goal created by Oppenheimer. His storming rush saw him blaze past the defenceman and not even Kristers Gudlevskis' sprawling save could prevent Marcel Noebels from sweeping home the rebound.

But the advantage lasted barely five minutes before Latvia tied it up on the power play in an almighty scramble in front of Philipp Grubauer's net. Ronalds Kenins fired against the post, and amid a flurry of sticks Pujacs forced the puck home via the skate of Frank Hordler.

Latvia's problems continued, though: a needless roughing penalty taken by Kaspars Daugavins on the first siren was punished 30 seconds into the middle session amid some alarmingly flat-footed defence. Frank Mauer was the beneficiary, given no fewer than three opportunities to shoot as Gudlevskis struggled to control his rebounds. And it proved third time lucky for the German as he put his team back in front.

The pressure continued to build on Gudlevskis' goal - Germany outshot Latvia 15-2 in the second stanza - and on occasion the goalie saw four defencemen standing ineffectively in a line in front of him as the Germans marauded at will. However, they got no closer than Hordler's one-timer off the post while Latvia's first line conjured up a moment of magic to tie the scores again. Mikelis Redlihs was both architect and executor, feeding Kenins for a surge that ended with a square pass for Redlihs to snaffle home on a one-timer and bring the majority of the 11,200 crowd to their feet in joy.

Ultimately, though, Latvia paid the price for a certain lightness on offence: aside from Redlihs' efforts there was little to trouble the Germans for long periods, allowing them to build up the pressure and take a second victory that suddenly gives them the right to dream of launching a serious bid of their own for a place in the last eight.

Not that Oppenheimer is straying from tournament tradition so early in the event. With just two of seven group stage games played he insists the team will continue to take each game as it comes rather than start thinking about a play-off spot.

"We didn't really think too much about what we might do in the first two games," he said. "We just want to go out and play hard and see what we could get, so we're very happy to have five points. Both games were pretty hard, but at international level it's hard to play against everybody. There are more good teams coming up."

ANDY POTTS

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