Klimovich does it again
by Andrew Podnieks|30 APR 2021
photo: Ryan McCullough/HHOF-IIHF Images
Danila Klimovich scored two more power-play goals to bring his tournament-best total to six, leading Belarus to a 6-2 win over Latvia. 

The win assures Belarus, Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland spots in the quarter-finals on Monday. Latvia cannot finish fourth, even if it beats Sweden on Saturday because it would tie Switzerland with three points. But even if the Swiss lose to Canada tomorrow and both teams finish with three points, the Swiss beat Latvia 4-2 on opening night and would get the final playoff spot based on that head-to-head result.

"We played hard and took advantage of our opportunities, and that's why we were able to win tonight," said Belarus forward Yegor Sidorov. "We're looking to playing Canada on Saturday. It will be up to us to see how we play, but we will try to win just as we do for every game. It will be a great chance to play our best hockey."

The result is disappointing given coach Olegs Sorokins led the Latvians to their first quarter-final berth in 2019. 

"We didn't have enough emotion tonight after last night's game against Canada," Sorokins acknowledged. "We had an awful start tonight. It wasn't until near the end of the second that we got going. But we took too many penalties, and you can't win a game like that. It's sad, but we lost the most important game of the tournament."

For Belarus, it's a trip to the playoff round for the third straight year, their greatest run of success in U18 history.

"I don't think this was our best game, but we played well in the first period and scored first," offered assistant captain Vladislav Shilo. "But in the second we didn't play as well. In the third, we were able to increase our lead, and in the end it's a good result."

Latvia did itself no favours by incurring nine of the 13 minor penalties in the game, but Belarus goalie Tikhon Chaika also stood tall for the winners and has asserted himsefl as the team's number-one goalie for now.

Klimovich scored early and late in the second period. His first came at 49 seconds and came off a wicked one-timer from the right faceoff dot.

His second gave Belarus a commanding 4-1 lead heading to the dressing room after 40 minutes, and came from the same spot on the other side, a favourite for right-handed shooters. 

Fyodor Nikolayenya had opened the scoring at 2:23 of the first period after some good pressure in the Latvian end. Ivan Anoshko made a good play to get the puck and got it to the slot where Nikolayenya made no mistake with the quick shot.

Belarus then increased its lead to 3-0 at 2:59 of the second. Arseni Sazonovich made a great stretch pass from beside his goal to a streaking Yegor Klavdiev. He cut hard in on goal and shovelled the puck past Marks Slavinkis.

Juts 34 seconds later, though, Latvia got on the board on a power play of its own. Juts five seconds after gaining the man advantage captain Martins Lavins pushed a rebound of a Peteris Purmalis point shot over the goal line.

Purmalis thought he scored with about six minutes to go, but after video review it was clear his wicked one-timer hit the post and stayed out.

Ilya Morozov put the game out of reach with a fifth goal at 9:54 of the final period. Latvia was caught up ice pressing for a goal, and Morozov snapped a pass from Yegor Ignatenko into the far side.

Latvia was awarded a pently shot soon after, but Chaika was patient as Martins Lavins moved in and failed to slide the puck in on the deke.

Belarus closed out its scoring with an empty netter and 2:41 remaining, Miroslav Mikhalyov getting credit. Too little, too late, Rainers Darzins got that one back for Latvia with less than two minutes remaining.

The Latvian dream of the playoffs might be over, but Sorokins sees a bright future for the players on this roster.

"I think we have a number of players from this team who will play at the U20, players like Martins Lauvins, Peteris Purmalis, Gustavs Ozolins. And I don't think they will just play on the team; I think they'll be leaders."

Both teams have a day off before finishing their round robin on Saturday when Latvia plays Sweden in the early game and Belarus ends with Canada at night.
Belarus vs Latvia - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship