Latvia in QF, Slovakia out
by Andrew Podnieks|14 AUG 2022
Latvian captain Ralfs Bergmanis celebrates with teammates after scoring a second-period goal against Czechia.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Latvia shocked Czechia by a 5-2 score this afternoon at Rogers Place, securing an improbable spot in the quarter-finals and eliminating Slovakia in the process. That Latvia qualified for this event only by virtue of the expulsion of Russia and Belarus make their playoff appearance all the more impressive. They finish the group in third place ahead of Czechia and Slovakia and have the chance to improve on their all-time best 8th-place finish at the World Juniors.

"We made history, and we're not done yet!" declared Martins Lavins after the game, issuing a warning to whatever team they might face in the quarters.

"We're really excited about this," Bergmanis added. "At the start, everybody was making jokes about us, saying we should just be happy to be here. But we've made history, and we're here to win. Yesterday we had a players only meeting and everybody talked about winning today. We're like one, big family."

Defender and captain Ralfs Bergmanis scored three goals including the final one into an empty net with 1:19 remaining to seal the win. Goalie Bruno Bruveris was brilliant. Despite being outshot 35-17, he held the fort for the Latvians time and again.
Czechia vs Latvia - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship
CZE LAT 14 AUG 2022
The teams had met only three times previously in World Junior play, most recently in 2012, and Czechia won all three by a combined score of 19-5.

Both goalies were playing in their third of four games for their respective teams, Jan Bednar having the better GAA than Bruveris – 3.36 to 3.84 – but it was Bruveris who made the difference today.

"We believed we could win," Darels Dukurs said. "We just played one game at a time and gave it our best. We played like a team and fought for each other. We stayed focus the whole time."

The Latvians got just the start they needed, jumping into a 2-0 lead by the halfway point of the period. Martins Lavins got the opener on a fine rush by Harijs Brants. He drove down the left wing and got the puck in front to Lavins, who quickly re-directed the puck between the open pads of Jan Bednar at 4:30.

They made it 2-0 at 12:21 off another great pass from behind the goal line. This time it was Raimonds Vitolins who fed Rainers Rullers in front. Rullers lifted a high shot over the shoulder of Bednar.

Latvia then took two successive penalties. The PK was letter perfect on the first and dodged a bullet on the second before finally succumbing. Michal Gut took a back-door pass that left him with nothing but net to shoot at, but he shot wide and looked heavenward for answers that could be more easily found on his stick tape.

But moments later he was given another opportunity through a hard pass cross crease from captain Jan Mysak, and this one he didn’t miss.

The Vitolins-Rullers combo had another sensational chance early in the second to make it a 3-1 game, but this time Bednar came across and made a great save on Rullers. Latvia had two power plays soon after but couldn’t capitalize, and it started to feel as though they had squandered chances to take control of the game.

Indeed, Czechia tied the score at 9:33 on a broken play. Captain Ralfs Bergmanis blocked a shot in front, but it landed with Stanislav Svozil. He moved in and roofed a backhand over Bruveris, and that feeling of lost opportunities care to the fore.

But credit to Latvia, and to Bergmanis in particular. He put his team ahead at 11:15 after David Jiricek made a poor clearing. Bergmanis’s quick point shot fooled Bednar and gave the underdogs another lead. Bruveris scored again six minutes later on a similar shot during a power play when his long wrister beat Bednar high.

Bednar was replaced by Tomas Suchanek to start the third, but he faced only three shots as his teammates fired 17 on Brumanis without scoring. Czechia had a golden chance to cut the lead midway through the period when Lavins closed his hand on the puck in the crease, resulting in a penalty shot. But Mysak was stoned by Bruveris and kept it a 4-2 game.
Czechia vs Latvia - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship