In a matchup that no one expected, Latvia and Finland faced off in the second game of a three-game relegation series. After a surprisingly close 2-1 Finnish victory in the first contest, Finland looked to close out the series, and remain in the pool.
The game did not get off to a good start for Latvia, as they took a high-sticking penalty seven seconds into the game, and a tripping penalty forty-three seconds later. The Finnish power play made short work of the Latvians on the ensuing 5-on-3, scoring their first goal 1:30 into the game as Eeli Tolvanen beat Mareks Mitens.
Finland took a delay-of-game penalty with about five minutes left as Jesper Mattila put the puck over the glass, and Latvia capitalized on the man advantage, as Renars Krastenbergs tied the game up with about 3:30 left to play.
Finland got a power play to close off the period, as Rihards Puide was called for kneeing after taking down Mattila, who had to be helped off the ice by his teammates, heavily favouring his right leg. Though the power play had some good looks, including several from Ducks’ prospect Julius Nättinen, the period ended still tied 1-1.
For a match that featured last year’s gold-medal team, and the newly promoted Latvia, the ebb and flow of the game was much less one-sided than one might expect, though shots were still 12-6 for Finland after the first.
The second period began better for Latvia, who drew a tripping call 2:52 into the period. By the five-minute mark, they’d registered six shots. Latvia took a penalty at about 6:30 into the period, and Finland turned up the heat, but Mitens’ nifty mitts kept the score tied at one apiece.
Latvia got a turn on the 5-on-3 with 5:54 left in the period as Henrik Borgstrom and Juuso Valimaki went off about a minute apart for roughing and interference respectively. Latvia generated some chances on the power play, but ultimately, Finland escaped unscathed.
Finland got a power play of their own as Nättinen was taken down hard, and then got a 5-on-3 of their own as Latvia was sent off for holding. The penalty boxes got quite crowded after that as both Latvia and Finland took penalties, and a fair amount of 4-on-3 hockey ensued.
In the dying seconds of the second, Nättinen rang the crossbar, but after 40, the score remained 1-1, shots 24-17 for Finland.
Finland opened the third on the power play, and Vili Saarijarvi scored the go-ahead goal 1:28 into the frame. Less than a minute later, Juuso Valimaki made it 3-1, and Finland never looked back.
Martins Dzierkals took back-to-back penalties for Latvia, first for kneeing and then for charging, and the teams exchanged some pushing and shoving in the later stages of the game.
The situation came to a head as Urho Vaakanainen was absolutely flattened behind the Finnish net. Though no honest-to-goodness fights broke out, both teams grabbed partners, and the end result was that Eduards Tralmaks was given five for charging, and Deniss Smirnovs and Teemu Vayrynen got two each for roughing.
Barely two minutes afterward, Kristian Vesalainen had to be helped off the ice after being hit by the puck, and immediately after that, Finland got another 5-on-3 as Rudolfs Balcers was sent off for tripping.
Juuso Valimaki scored the 4-1 goal with 23 seconds left on the power play, and 2:34 left in the period on a nice pass from Aapeli Rasanen. Finland drew yet another power play, as did Latvia, but the game was all but over.
Finland escaped the threat of relegation, and Latvia will be replaced by Belarus at next year’s tournament.
Captain Kristaps Zile was named player of the game for Latvia, while Juuso Valimaki recieved those honours for Finland.
Mareks Mitens was named a well deserved player of the tournament for Latvia, as were Karlis Cukste and Martins Dzirkals. Veini Vehvilainen, Vili Saarijarvi and Aapeli Rasanen were named players of the tournament for Finland.