Super Tuesday: Group B
by Andrew Podnieks|01 JUN 2021
Matiss Kivlenieks has been a star in goal for Latvia so far.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
It has been an extraordinary tournament so far, and it’s about to reach its zenith in the preliminary round with two games that will decide the two playoff spot that are up for grabs. By bed time tonight, the usual will have happened or a shocking switcheroo will have occurred.

Canada-Finland, 12:15 EET (6:15 am ET)

The Story So Far
Norway and Italy are at the bottom of their group, and their results have no material importance. At the other end, Kazakhstan’s loss yesterday leaves the door ajar for two of three teams tied for fourth place, all with nine points – Canada, Latvia, Germany. 

Finland and the United States have qualified for the playoffs, and the first game of the day is one that, in the past, might usually determine first place. Today, however, it will either give Finland first, or it will allow Canada to squeak in.

Finland has played solid and dependable hockey all tournament, their only loss a shocking 3-2 defeat in the penalty-shot shootout to the Kazakhs.

Not so for Canada. It lost the first three games for the first time ever, and has been rallying ever since.

Canada will need to beat Finland – either in regulation time, overtime or shootout, to advance to the quarter-finals. A loss in overtime or shootout can be enough if the Germany-Latvia game ends with a regulation-time winner. Otherwise a three-way time with either Latvia/Kazakhstan or Germany/Kazakhstan would eliminate Canada.

A regulation-time loss would eliminate Canada in any case – and would also be the only scenario for Kazakhstan to stay in a quarter-final spot.

What’s At Stake
Medals and pride and history. Canada has never failed to qualify for the playoffs of any World Championship or Olympics. Not ever. This would be a monumental disappointment, made easier to accept perhaps because the pandemic made player selection far more difficult than usual. But Canada has always been so deep in talent it never has needed its very best to succeed. To not qualify for the final eight would be a shocker.

Best Player
Canada: Hands down, Andrew Mangiapane. He flew over and quarantined for six days, starting Canada’s fourth game. Since that time, the team is 3-0 and he is among the top scorers in the tournament.
Finland: Anton Lundell has four of the team’s 16 goals. He is a threat every time he is on the ice, and as he goes so goes the Finnish offence.

Did you know…?
Canada has two players in the lineup who played in last year’s 3-1 gold-medal game loss to the Finns – Adam Henrique and Troy Stecher. The Finns have seven players who celebrated after that game – goalie Jussi Olkinuora and skaters Marko Anttila, Niko Ojamaki, Petteri Lindbohm, Atte Ohtamaa, Miika Koivisto, and Jere Salinen.

Germany-Latvia, 20:15 EET (19:15 CET)

The Story So Far
Germany has won 8 of 13 all-time meetings between the teams, but non-playoff games don’t get any bigger than this. It really is an elimination game. The Germans won their first three games, then lost their next three, so they’re trending in the wrong direction. Latvia, though, started with an historic win over Canada, 2-0, to get their tournament started, and have also lost their last three. Something’s gotta give.

What’s At Stake
Latvia is hosting the Worlds for the first time since 2006 and only the second time ever. There will be about 2,500 fans in the building for the game, and as everyone knows 2,500 Latvians can sound like 10,000 fans from anywhere else. 

In 2006, Latvia failed to qualify for the playoffs, and to do so this year would be huge for the country’s hockey program and, given the pandemic, its morale. Germany, though, is in the middle of a revived program, and a loss would be a decided setback to their goal of being a medal contender by 2026.

It will be a winner-takes-it-all game for both Germany and Latvia. In one scenario both teams would advance: If Canada loses to Finland in OT/SO and the Germany-Latvia game ends up tied after 60 minutes going to OT/SO.

Best Player
Germany: Mattias Plachta leads the team with three goals and six points, and also in average ice time. He’s on for more than 20 minutes a game.
Latvia: Goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks has surrendered only nine goals in four games and has been the foundation upon which coach Bob Hartley has built his team’s success this year. Kivlenieks will have to be the team’s best player if Latvia is to defeat Germany.

Did you know…?
Latvia has been in the top division every year since 1997 but has advanced to the playoff round only four times, losing each quarter-final game. A win today would be nothing short of monumental.