The Swiss win, following two losses, leaves the Group B final standings entirely dependent on the later game today in Kaufbeuren between Finland and Sweden. If the Finns win, Sweden would finish in second, Latvia third, and Switzerland fourth, so in the cross-over quarter-finals the Swiss would likely play the United States on Thursday.
If the Swedes win, they would finish first, Finland second, Switzerland third, and Latvia fourth, and Latvia would have the likely unenviable task of playing the Americans.
"We battled hard," said winning coach Marcel Jenni. "It was a really tough game. Latvia plays a very structured style and makes you work for everything. Our mentality, our character, were huge for our team today. It was tough after losing the first two games, especially against Sweden in the last period when we were right there and had a chance to pick up some points and didn't. We had a great work ethic today and forced them into making some key mistakes. We played a full 60 minutes. I'm really proud of how the team played."
"Probably there was a bit of motivation," added Alessandro Lurati of wanting to win to avoid the U.S., "but what was more important was that we lost the first two games so we really wanted to put out our best effort to win for the first time. Now, we'll see who we play."
Switzerland came into the game having won four of five previous meetings at the U18 against Latvia, their only loss coming in their first game back in 2012.
"I think we were focused too much on offence to start the third period," suggested Latvia coach Olegs Sorokins, "but we were much better chance-wise later. The thing with young guys is that when they don't score they try even harder to score and forget a bit about the defence. The Swiss took advantage of that, and we didn't capitalize when we had chances."
Said Latvian forward Rodzers Bukarts: "I think our confidence started with that first game against Sweden, when we beat them, 3-2, for the first time in our history. Since then we feel we can win every game. It just didn't happen for us today."
Eighty seconds later, the Swiss tied the score when the puck also came back to the right point off a pass from Lurati in the corner. This time it was a point shot from another captain, Simone Terraneo, that went all the way through a maze of players.
The Latvians had a great chance to go ahead midway through the period when Emils Veckaktins redirected a point shot, but Alessio Beglieri made a great save with his left pad. They converted on a power play later on, though, off the rush. Veckaktins couldn’t control a pass through the middle, but the puck bounced off the skate of defender Yann Voegeli right onto Veckaktins’s stick all the same. He then wired a shot past the outstretched glove of Rolovs at 16:41 to give Latvia their second lead of the period.
Coach Jenni must have had a few sharp words for his players during the intermission, because the Swiss came out and dominated most of the middle period. Noah Greuter tied the game at 4:14 off a great individual effort. The play started with a turnover at the Swiss blue line, and defender Ryan Mazzola got the puck and moved up ice before feeing Greuter with the pass. Greuter went in on goal and as he was being tripped managed to roof a shot over the shoulder of Rolovs.
Three and a half minutes later, the Swiss took their first lead. Maurice Pauli picked off a pass at the Latvia blue line and got the puck to Mattheo Reinhard. He went in on goal and tried to pass back to Pauli, but the puck bounced off the skate of Elvis Laskovs and into the goal.
The Swiss were in control right til the end of the period, but Latvia had one last chance before the buzzer and capitalized. Bukarts, the youngest of three hockey-playing siblings, controlled the puck in the right corner and waited, firing the best pass of the tournament through three Swiss players onto the tape of Davids Livsics for the tying goal with only 8.5 seconds remaining.
The third was tense and cautious until Pont and Fiebiger worked a little magic in front for the big Swiss win.