Still, it’s the winner of the Canada-Belarus game tonight that will ultimately finish in first and face the Czechs in one quarter-finals on Monday.
"We're taking steps as a group, both individually and as a team," said Mattias Havelid. "We're getting better and better."
Twin brother and goalie Hugo agreed. "I think we started to come together after that Canada loss, and we're a better group now and looking forward to the quarter-finals."
William Stromgren and Simon Robertsson had two goals each while Hugo Havelid stopped all 30 shots and earned the shutout for Sweden.
Sweden’s second-place position will mean they now play the third-place team in Group B in one quarter-finals while the Latvians go home winless in four games. To their credit, they played hard today against Sweden in what was a game without meaning in the standings for them. They finish in 9th place, and Germany will be in 10th. Latvia will be back in the top division next year, but with only four 2004-born players it will be a very different-looking team.
"We started slowly but after the power play in the first they were the better team," said Sweden's coach Anders Eriksen. "But then we started to score and in the third we were the better team. We've had our ups and downs in the tournament so far. I think the boys were pretty eager to qualify for the quarter-finals, but I think we can play better, play a full 60 minutes."
"We talked before the game and said that this is our last game and we should try to play our best game," said Latvian forward Peteris Purmalis. "But in this tournament we didn't play a full game, 60 minutes, and we didn't score on many of our chances."
Coach Olegs Sorokins agreed. "Our biggest problem was scoring. In none of our games did we score a big goal when we needed to. We had chances in all games to win or get back into the game, but it didn't work out. But the guys fought the whole way. We were ready to play today, and we started pretty well. The result didn't show how well we played and how many chances we created. No wonder the Swedish goalie got the best player award. He was the one who kept us from scoring."
The Swedes got the only goal of the first period, but Latvia played them evenly for much of the opening 20 minutes. Stromgren blocked a point shot by Silvers Lazarenoks inside the Sweden blue line and raced down the ice with Lazarenoks giving chase. Stromgren stayed ahead, though, and fired a shot under the glove of Linards Lipskis at 4:54 for the early lead.
To their credit, Latvia got their legs and started to press. They generated quick penalties on holding calls from Swedes, but on the ensuing power plays, including a two-man advantage for 1:25, they could do little.
One of Latvia’s best chances came early in the second on a Sweden power play. Captain Martins Lavins made a fine rush down the left side, beat his man, and had a nice shot high to the short side on Havelid.
Sweden upped its lead at 7:09 of the middle period on a quick play that fooled Lipskis. The puck squirted out of a scrum along the boards right to Albert Sjoberg, standing on the right faceoff dot, and his quick shot eluded Lipskis.
Simon Edvinsson, the hulking defenceman for Sweden, suffered his second knee-on-knee hit in the tournament near the end of the period. This time the perp was Klavs Veinbergs, who earned a major and game misconduct. Edvinsson stayed in the game but looked rattled by the dirty hit all the same. Eriksen didn't play him for the third period.
Sweden scored early in the third on this extnded man advantage. Oliver Moberg found Stromgren in the middle of the Latvian box, and Stromgren made no mistake to score his second of the night.
Four minutes later, they extended their lead after Lipskis made a sensational save on a point-blank shot from Liam Dower-Nilsson. But Lipskis was down and out after kicking the puck out, and Robertsson snapped the loose puck high into the net for a 4-0 lead. Three minutes later, he added his second as the deflated Latvians had lost hope.
Isak Rosen and Ludwig Persson finished the scoring.