Next up for Latvia is Olympic qualification in August in Riga, a tournament notable for Germany's defeat of Latvia back in 2016.
It also means Canada sneaks in as well and will face ROC in a 1 vs. 4 QF matchup.
"It was ups and downs," said a despondent Rodrigo Abols. "We got better and found our strength, but today we had a slower start and that’s the main reason we lost."
For Germany, this marks the fourth time in five years it has qualified for the playoffs, something the team now expects.
"There's lots of development going on in Germany right now," said Markus Eisenschmid. "We have lots of players going to North America now and playing big hockey. Even the German league is really underestimated right now. There's some great players there, and I think our team has showed it the last five years that we can compete on an international level. It makes me proud. Moving forward, our expectations are higher and higher. We started with the silver medal at the Olympics, but I think there's a lot more to come."
"It was great," said German forward John Peterka. "We've all been used to playing in front of fans, so it was special to see them today. It was a lot of fun."
Germany got two goals in the first and after a Latvian goal early in the second clung to the lead the rest of the game. It wasn't always pretty, but it was effective.
"We got off to a great start and were happy with how we played in the first period," Eisenschmid noted. "In the second, playing with the lead, it wasn't our best, wasn't our prettiest game, especially in the second. We could have done a lot better. We stopped skating and were chasing the puck. There's room for improvement. The good news is we defended the lead and got the win, so that's all that counts right now."
"We got down 2-0 and we never quit," said Latvia's coach, Bob Hartley. "With a little luck and a few more bounces, maybe we could have forced overtime and got into the quarter-finals. Against a high-pressure team like Germany, we knew we wouldn’t get much time but we got some great looks, we made some great plays but we just couldn’t buy a goal. The effort and the execution were there; we just didn’t have the finishing touch."
The Germans got on the board early, shocking the pro-Latvian crowd with a goal at 3:16. There was nothing fancy about the play. Peterka barrelled down the left wing and snapped a shot over the glove of Janis Kalnins, who was a surprise starter in goal in place of Matiss Kivlenieks.
Three and a half minutes later, they made it 2-0 on a play in close. Leon Pfoderl got the puck to the side of the net and put it out front on the stick of Marcel Noebels, and his quick shot snuck under the pad of Kalnins.
Latvia had chances of their own, earning two power plays, but they didn’t come particularly close. Janis Jaks made a nice rush and drove to the net, but his shot was deflected out of harm’s way by Fabio Wagner.
Latvia dominated much of the second period, and were full measure for a goal at 5:54 to get back into the game. A turnover at the Latvian blue line allowed Rodrigo Abols to head up ice on a three-on-two, and he snapped a shot over the glove of Niederberger to get the hosts back in the game.
But Germany played diligent defensive hockey, and the penalty killers were at their best when they had to defend against two Latvian power plays in the final period. In the end, they hung on for the key victory, made the Canadians happy, and now prepare for a quarter-finals date with the Swiss.
"The three games we lost we didn’t play bad but couldn’t capitalize," said Tom Kuhnhackl. "This time we scored and defended the lead. To play Latvia in Latvia with the crowd and score the first goal gives confidence. Each game in the tournament gets harder and harder. We play Switzerland now, we have to bring our A game because they will too, they have played a great tournament so far."