IIHF World Championship Day 1: Latvia shocks Canada, Germany scores 9 goals in opener

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Latvia at the IIHF World Championship
Photo via IIHF.com.

The first day of the IIHF World Championship preliminary games is now over, and if you missed any of the action on the ice, we’ll get you up to speed here.

Group A

Russia 4, Czech Republic 3

In the Russian Olympic Committee’s first match, they narrowly beat the Czech Republic 4-3 at Olympic Sports Center in the early Group A game, providing some early drama.

It came down to the wire as both teams were tied up as the Czech Republic’s Dominik Kubalik scored a goal to make it 3-3 at 57:23 in the third period. But with less than a minute remaining, Russia’s Mikhail Grigorenko came up big with the winning goal, assisted by Ivan Provorov with just 19 seconds remaining in the match.

Russia took advantage of the Czechs decision to make a lineup change and Provorov found Grigorenko.

“I didn’t even realize that I’d scored – I heard the puck ding off the bar and thought it went out of play, but everyone skated over to congratulate me,” he said after the game.

Russia now plays Great Britain on Saturday morning, while the Czechs will face Switzerland in the late game.

Slovakia 5, Belarus 2

Slovakia got off to a fast start in their match against Belarus, scoring three first period points and never looking back.

Belarus was left scoreless through the first two periods, but finally found the net in the third with two goals, however, Slovakia matched their pair with their own.

While Belarus is one of the most experienced teams in the World Championship, it was the younger Slovak’s whose youth got them started off on the right foot, although coach Craig Ramsay said they got a little too fancy for their own good later in the game.

“We were two teams. One that was aggressive at the start. We chased and we attacked and our power play was really effective. Then when we started to get fancy, we made some funny plays and gave up a lot of chances but fortunately, our goaltender was really good.”

Slovakia was led by Kristian Pospisil, who scored two goals.

Slovakia and Belarus now both have a day off before their second matches on Sunday against Great Britain and Sweden.

Group B

Germany 9, Italy 4

Things sure did start off rocky for Italy, whose roster is decimated by injuries and COVID-19-related absences, but losing by five goals on the first day of the preliminaries was likely not how they wanted to get the World Championship started.

Nine goals was the largest amount of goals Italy has given up to Germany in international play, and it was just about all over after the second period. Germany scored five times in the period with a pair of goals coming from Marcel Noebels.

But Noebels was hardly the only player who scored, as several players scored in the dominating win.

“What I liked was that a lot of players got touches on the puck,” said Germany coach Toni Soderholm. “We made some small changes for the second period. We wanted to put them under more pressure and not let them change. I felt like everybody was a part of what was happening on the ice. Altogether, I’m fairly pleased with what we did tonight.”

Germany now faces Norway in the early game tomorrow, while Italy looks to bounce back on Sunday, also against Norway.

Latvia 2, Canada 0

While the Russia game provided some late dramatics, and Germany had no problem finding the net, perhaps the shocker of day one of the IIHF World Championship was host country Latvia absolutely stunning Canada with a 2-0 shutout.

Canada is a consistent force in international play and they’ve had repeated success against Latvia. In the all-time history between the two teams, Latvia had 11 losses and a tie and gets their first win regardless if it was the Worlds, Olympics, World Juniors and U18.

This was also the first time these teams played in Riga since an 11-0 drubbing of Latvia by Canada in 2006.

Miks Indrasis scored the first goal for Latvia in the first period, and Oskars Batna scored the final goal of the game in the second period, assisted by Ronalds Kennis. Latvia then stayed on top of their defense and skated to victory.

It was a nice home win for Latvia, but they move on to take on Kazakhstan tomorrow, while Canada resumes play against the USA on Sunday.

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