Germany GER
30 DEC 2023
Latvia LAT
Preliminary Round
teams {{item.Displays._default.ShortTitle}} {{getOvertimeShortTitle(periods)}} {{item.Displays._default.ShortTitle}} {{item.Displays._default.ShortTitle}}
{{item.Score.Home}} {{groupPeriod.Score.Home}} {{item.Score.Home}} {{item.Score.Home}} {{item.Score.Home}}
{{item.Score.Away}} {{groupPeriod.Score.Away}} {{item.Score.Away}} {{item.Score.Away}} {{item.Score.Away}}
ger lat {{formatDate(scores.Video.VideoPublishDate)}}
{{scores.Assistant1Display}} {{scores.Assistant2Display}}
no goals
Game details
{{spectators === '' ? '-' : spectators}}
Latvia pounds Germany to stay alive
By Lucas AYKROYD | 30 DEC 2023
Latvia celebrates after Rodzers Bukarts' second-period goal in a 6-2 win over Germany at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Latvia's dire streak of no goals and no wins is over. The Latvians erupted for a surprising 6-2 victory over Germany on Saturday and sustained their hopes of making the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship quarter-finals.

"We played our best game," said Eriks Mateiko, who got the all-important first goal." Everybody did their best, and that helped us a lot."

However, Germany and Finland each control their own fates in Group A. On New Year’s Eve, if Finland secures a point against Sweden, it advances. Likewise, if Germany secures a point against Canada, it advances. The Latvians' preliminary round is over, and they'll now need to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Germany has made the last three quarter-finals, coming sixth in 2021 and 2022 and eighth in 2023. To see that streak die would be disappointing for their program.

Looking ahead to facing Canada, assistant captain Julian Lutz said: "We've got to be more physical. I think [Latvia] dominated us physically. And we've got to believe in ourselves that we can still do it. Believe in our group and play way more simple. Don't try to do too much, and shoot more on the net. They blocked so many shots today."

Latvia was full value for the three points, grabbing a 3-0 first-period lead as the Germans came out flat. Latvia's NHL draft picks stepped up, as Sandis Vilmanis (Florida) scored twice and added an assist, while Dans Locmelis (Boston) had three assists.

"We knew this would be the most important game for us," said Locmelis, the Latvian captain. "We played as a team and got three points."

Shots on goal favoured Latvia 28-23.

Until now, it was a dismal run in Gothenburg for coach Artis Abols' team, which was outscored 20-0 in its first three games. Coming into this tilt, Latvia actually hadn’t scored in a World Junior preliminary round game since Darels Dukurs’ second-period goal in a 3-2 shootout loss to Switzerland on 27 December 2022.

Mateiko finally broke through at 2:46. The Saint John Sea Dogs forward jumped off the bench, accepted a pass from Darels Uljanskis, and fired the puck from the left faceoff circle through goalie Philipp Dietl’s legs.

"I didn't even see at first that it went in, but then I saw my teammates celebrating and I started to celebrate too," Mateiko said.

Latvian goalie Deivs Rolos foiled leading German scorer Veit Oswald on a 2-on-1 break with Eric Hordler. Rodzers Bukarts then made it 2-0 with a power play howitzer at 9:06.

Moments after Rolovs denied Lutz with a nice blocker save, Peteris Bulans extended Latvia’s lead to three with a shot that eluded Dietl through traffic at 13:23.

"They scored goals in the beginning and we couldn't utilize our chances," Lutz said. "We found ourselves struggling."

In the second period, the Germans fumbled on their first power play. But shortly afterwards, Samuel Schindler cut the deficit to 3-1 at 6:30 with a long fluttering shot that caught Rolovs off guard.

At 10:46, Rainers Darzins restored Latvia's three-goal gap. Rushing in, he took a nice flip pass from Dans Locmelis in the left faceoff circle and beat Dietl in tight.

Rolovs came up big again when he stymied Oswald on a breakaway during 4-on-4 action. And his teammates kept on coming. With the man advantage, Vilmanis converted a hard one-timer to make it 5-1 at 17:44.

Locmelis explained his team's improved power play: "Just getting pucks to the net and playing simple."

Vilmanis ended Dietl's night with a nice charge to the net to make it 6-1 at 6:46 of the third. German coach Tobias Abstreiter put in backup Matthias Bittner the rest of the way.

Julius Sumpf set up a pinching Norwin Panocha for Germany's second goal. But Deutschland would get no closer. Oswald's five-minute major for a hit from behind on Locmelis terminated any chance of a miracle comeback.

Last year in Halifax, Latvia won two straight relegation round games against Austria to survive. This year, relegation is a single-game elimination format. The last-place team in Group A will battle Norway at the Scandinavium on 4 January at 11:00.

Whether it's by making the quarter-finals or simply avoiding relegation, the Latvians are hoping to return to the top division for an unprecedented fourth year in 2025 in Ottawa.

"It would be a big boost to the Latvian national team," said Mateiko. "It means a lot to us, and not only to us, but to the hockey future of our country."

Latvian hockey reached new heights in May in Tampere when the men’s national team won its first IIHF World Championship medal. Kristians Rubins scored twice, including the 4-3 overtime winner, in the bronze medal game against the Americans. Tens of thousands greeted the players at the Freedom Monument in Riga in an unforgettable, historic moment.
Germany vs Latvia - 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship