OTTAWA – This was a first for Slovakia’s Jaroslav Janus.
In a 7-2 win over Latvia in the world junior hockey championship on Saturday, Janus faced only 17 shots but not a single one of those came in the second period.
“That’s never happened to me before,” said Janus with a laugh. “It was kind of tough.”
Janus, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters, had the best seat in the house to watch his team run over Latvia.
“This was the kind of game we talked about,” said Janus. “We really wanted to win our first game.”
Radoslav Tybor and Ondrej Rusnak each scored a pair of goals to lead the Slovaks. Marek Hrivik, Tomas Tatar and Adam Bezak also scored.
Janis Straupe and Ronalds Cinks scored for Latvia, while Nauris Enkuzens faced 43 shots. Latvia is now 0-2 at the tournament and will play Sweden on the 29th.
The first period featured end-to-end action as both teams exchanged a pair of goals.
“We were kind of surprised after the first period,” admitted Janus. “But we knew they might get tired since they played (Friday).”
Slovakia’s Tybor opened the scoring at 1:54 of the first period beating Enkuzens high stick-side.
Latvia went on to take the lead on goals from Straupe and Cinks. Cinks’ goal came on a beautiful second effort as he got the puck off while being hauled down.
With less than four minutes remaining in the period, Slovakia tied the game as Rusnak tipped Radek Deyl’s shot from the blue-line.
Slovakia took control of the game in the second, scoring three unanswered goals.
“The second half of the game was really bad for us,” said Latvia’s Roberts Bukarts, who had one assist. “We didn’t make any shots in the second and in the third we wanted to come back, but it was too late.”
Latvian coach Andrejs Maticins said he couldn’t repeat what was said to his team after the second period.
“There were too many mistakes,” said Maticins. “We had breakdowns for about six or seven minutes. If you want to play in Group A you can’t make so many mistakes.”
The game remained close until the latter half of the second when Slovakia scored twice in a span of 38 seconds.
Hrivik broke the 2-2 tie with a questionable goal as his shot got just under the crossbar. After review the goal held up despite protests from the Latvians.
That goal seemed to give the Slovakians some confidence and allowed them to open things up.
“I think they were a little nervous because they’re not favoured,” said Slovak coach Stefan Mikes through an interpreter. “It was really important to play Latvia and win. Once we scored the third goal everything went our way.”
Seconds later Rusnak was left all alone to beat Enkuzens high glove side.
With just under two minutes remaining in the period Tybor scored his second of the game to make it 5-2.
Moments after the Latvians recorded their first shot on goal in over 22 minutes the Slovakian’s scored again as Tatar picked up a rebound and scored into an empty net.
“I think it’s good when lots of players score,” said Rusnak. “I think we will be less nervous for next game.”
Despite Latvia’s obvious struggles its fans could still be heard cheering among the 9,370 on hand at the Civic Centre.
Slovakia faces Sweden on Sunday.