Kaslik scored with Slovakia's fifth shot, putting a great deke on Bruno Bruveris befor etucking the puck in. Raimonds Vitolins was then stopped by Simon Latkoczy to seal the victory in a tight battle with significant playoff implications.
Slovakia entered this game having never lost to Latvia in six previous U20 meetings. But today was a particularly important game for both teams. They had both been winless and were last in the Group A standings. The winner would claim the coveted fourth and final playoff spot while the fifth-pace team would have an uphill battle to qualify with only one game remaining. A win in regulation time by either team would have decided the outcome already tonight.
For now, advantage Slovakia, with two points to Latvia's one. Both teams have a day off before playing Sunday. Latvia plays the Czechs and Slovakia takes on the Finns. Both games are tough wins for the underdogs, which made this game all the more vital.
Both captains were beasts in this game. Ralfs Bergmanis, a defender for Latvia, logged 27:10 of ice time, while his couterpart, defender Rayen Petrovicky, was on for 26:25.
"In the previous games, we didn't shoot a lot, so we tried to shoot more in this game and it worked," said Adam Sykora from the winning side. "We didn't score many goals, but we won, so that's the most important thing."
"I think we played a really good second period with the puck," said Latvia's Niks Fenenko, one of the goalscorers. "But at the end, we had to be more concentrated, more hungry around the goal. We didn't have enough confidence in the games against Canada and Finland. But now we've had more time with the puck and it's given us more confidence."
Slovakia then had two power plays, cashing in on the second. Dalibor Dvorsky hit the crossbar with a hard shot, but soon after Adam Sykora worked a little magic with Jakub Demek. Sykora, the 17-year-old drafted 63rd by the New York Rangers just a few weeks ago, made a great play off the boards to beat his man, got the puck to Demek who quickly returned it to Sykora for the re-direct past the outstretched arm of Bruno Bruveris.
"It was a nice goal and maybe one of the best of my career!" enthused Sykora. "I just had the puck and I passed to my teammate. I expected he would shoot a one-timer. But he gave it back and I scored. So an incredible goal for me, and I'm really thankful to Jacob Demek that he passed it back to me."
As in the first, teams exchanged goals in the second period but in reverse order. However, first Martin Misiak had a great chance to put Slovkaia out in front when a loose puck landed on his stick with no one between him and the goal. He made his move, but Bruveris was right there to make a fine pad save.
Dalibor Dvorsky converted at 9:54 on a mad scramble in front initiated after Roman Faith tried a wraparound. Dvorsky found the puck amid the rubble and lifted it in to give the Slovaks a lead. But less than three minutes later, Latvia tied the game. Niks Fenenko drove down the left wing and at the goal line he put the puck on net. Latkoczy mishandled the shot and it trickled in to make it a 2-2 game.
"I think it was lucky," Fenenko admitted. "I was just skating into the zone and trying to create a rebound. I think the Slovak goalie made a mistake. It was a lucky goal, but it helped the team."
The third game was caution personified, nary a good chance although Latvia had a late power play which went for naught. In the three-on-three overtime, Slovakia had the two best chances. Oleksiy Myklukha hit the post after a superb pass from Petrovicky, and soon after Adam Sykora dipsy-doodled into position only to lose the puck at the top of the crease. That set the stage for the penalty-shot shootout, which favoured the Slovaks today.