Shots favoured Sweden, 27-13, but Bruno Bruveris was rock solid in net for Latvia and the players in front of him put up a brave front. Jesper Wallstedt won his third game of the tournament for Sweden and wasn't tested very often.
"We were the favorites for the game, and it's always a bit hard to be that," said Isak Rosen, one of Sweden's scorers. "We knew they would come with a lot of energy. So we had to match up with that energy, and I think we did pretty well. We got the win and that's all the matters."
"I think our first period was good," said Sweden coach Tomas Monten, who is leaving the junior program after the tournament. "I think our second was not good. We went a bit sloppy. I think we were cheating to get to that second goal instead of just keeping on grinding, keeping on playing our game. In the last ten minutes, I think we played really well. I think that's the best we've played. It was a tough game."
That all changed, however, when Gustavs Ozolins took a cross-checking penalty. Latvia’s Felikss Gavars had a great chance short-handed, racing down the ice on a breakaway, but Liam Ohgren caught up to him and stripped him of the puck before Ozolins could get a shot.
Moments later, Fabian Lysell tried a wraparound that went through the crease and out the other side. Isak Rosen was right there and snapped the puck into the open net at 16:44 for the 1-0 Sweden lead. It was his fourth goal of the tournament.
"Fabian did a really good entry on the power play," Rosen explained. "I tried to find an open space where the puck could end up and it got on my stick. So, open net!"
The second period passed almost without incident as both teams seemed content with the score. Sweden couldn’t mount any charge to increase their lead, and Latvia had even greater difficulty generating good scoring chances. Latvia had the only power play of the middle 20 but mounted little in the way of dangerous shots.
But just like that, Latvia tied the game at 18:46. Gustavs Ozolins took a bumper pass down low from Sandis Vilmanis from down low and moved to the centre of the ice along the blue line. He wristed a shot through a tangle of players in front, and Wallstedt didn’t see it until the puck had dented the twine, shocking Sweden and giving the Latvians a greater sense of belief heading to the dressing room in a 1-1 game.
Early in the third, Martins Lavins incurred a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking to the head. But like so much of the game, nothing happened during this critical part of the game. Latvia's penalty killers did a masterful job, and Sweden could muster few shots. By this point, it had become apparent that Sweden simply wasn't playing all that well and Latvia was playing a very smart, patient, effective game.
Sweden finally went ahead on a goal remarkably similar to Ozolins's. Captain Emil Andrae got the puck at the point, moved a step to the middle, and wristed a quick shot through traffic that dropped under Bruveris's glove and in. The relief on the Sweden bench was palpable.
"Off the faceoff, we got the puck from Wallinder," Andrae explained. "And I knew before the game, they'd try to block those shots. So I just faked a little bit and got the puck through."
Latvia tried to put added pressure on the Sweden defence but coulnd't manage much. Bruveris came to the bench only in the final minute, and the extra skater didn't have much of an impact. Sweden now moves on, but the Latvians leave with their heads high and another chance to play at the top level in December in Halifax.
"We fought hard," Ozolins offered. "We gave it our all. We left it on the ice. We're not happy, a little bit disappointed. We knew we had them. But it is what it is at the end of the day. We're proud. I think we gained a lot of confidence. I hope the youngsters out there in Latvia gained a lot of confidence that we can play."