The Latvians come from their best World Juniors in August. They finished seventh in Edmonton, highlighted by a 5-2 upset over the Czech Republic, which was their first win in the junior world preliminary round.
Still, the USA, with 19 NHL draftees to Latvia’s three, entered this matchup as heavy favorites. The final shots would favor the USA 46-17.
The United States set a strong skating pace from the puck drop. But Latvia held their own in the first period, playing committed defensive hockey, despite being unable to capitalize with Gavin Brindley out on cut. The shots only favored the Stars and Stripes 9-8.
Lucius described his team’s early reaction: “Definitely a little surprised. I think the whole team was. Sometimes our shots didn’t go in, different things like that.”
The Pecknold team’s natural inclination might be to execute works as dazzling as the bright red jacket donned by Avenir Center organist Lynden Steeves.
However, Snuggerud’s first goal at 0:24 of the second period came from reaching the net and hitting a loose puck in the box. A 2022 first-round pick by the St. Louis Blues (22nd overall), Snuggerud is the son of 1988 Olympian and 1989 IIHF World Championship participant Dave Snuggerud.
Latvia had a reply at 4:59. The goal was a thing of beauty. In a 2-on-1 break against defenseman Jack Peart, Ravinskis worked seamlessly with Rullers. Ravinskis hit the puck into the open side as the crowd cheered the underdogs. It was Latvia’s first shot of the second half.
“It was a great feeling. When you come to World Juniors and score, it’s a very good feeling here,” Ravinskis said. “Great [first] stop by our captain [Gustavs Ozolins] and especially our number seven Rainers Rullers. Great pass from him and I just had to put it in.”
Near the eight-minute mark of the second period, the US increased their pressure. Berzins waved around the box in Dominik Hasek style, somehow keeping the puck out of the net despite missing his stick.
Behrens restored the US lead at 9:17, getting the puck off Red Savage’s left spot and firing through traffic.
The Latvians refused to turn around. His second shot of the period also went in. This time, Fenenko did the damage, stepping in from the blue line to score at 14:24 with a high fist to a crowd in front.
In the third period, the Americans finally had better luck. They had outshot Latvia 19-4 in the middle box and stuck with that approach.
Lucius got past two Latvian defenders and lobbed a backhand over Berzins’ glove at 1:57 for a 3-2 lead. As far as an AHL rookie with the Manitoba Moose goes, Lucius (a 2021 first-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, 18th overall) has two goals and three assists.
Lucius described his winner: “Behrens flipped the puck. It got to Jackson Blake and it came out like a skate. And then I came in with speed. So I’m two on one and a guy was going to take me from behind. So I pulled him back. my backhand and luckily I shot”.
Savage made it 4-2 at 6:48 when he coldly converted a rebound with Berzins spread out. At 1:29 p.m., Hughes scored with a long shot from the right that hit the goalkeeper’s right post. There would be no late return from Latvia.
This was only the fourth all-time meeting between the Americans and Latvia in this tournament. The United States won 12-1 at the 2010 World Juniors, 12-2 at the 2012 World Juniors and 6-1 at the 2017 World Juniors.
“I think we showed everybody today that we can play hockey,” Ravinskis said. “So we did a great job. And the Swiss? Let’s play against them too!”
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