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World Hockey Championship Roundup: Opening Day Begins With Big Upset

The 2021 World Championship began with Latvia shutting out Canada for its first victory over the hockey powerhouse in tournament history. Russia, Slovakia and Germany were also victorious in the opening day of play in Riga.

Latvia Pulls Off Upset on Home Ice

It didn't take long for the first upset of the tournament, as Latvia managed to pull off a 2-0 victory over Canada on Friday evening on home ice - but without fans to witness the historic victory.

The win was Latvia's first against Canada at the World Championship. The teams have had various close battles internationally over the past decade, but this was the first time Latvia was able to seal the deal - and in shutout fashion, nonetheless.

With just one second to go in the opening period, Miks Indrasis - who drew a penalty on the play prior - scored on a wrist shot with the man advantage to finish off the first period, scoring on Latvia's fourth shot of the game. Canada was hoping to get back with a goal in the second but instead, Oskars Batna would tip in Ronalds Kenins shot at 28:39 to score the only goal of the second period – a lead that would last until the final buzzer.

Canada would try to pull out all the stops in the third period, but Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Matiss Kivlenieks was up for the challenge. He stopped all 38 shots sent his way for the victory in just his first World Championship game for Latvia, a big result for the 24-year-old with just eight games of NHL experience with Columbus.

While Canada was without many of the nation's top hockey stars, Latvia won the game without any current NHLers. Only five players on Latvia has played in the NHL, with Kaspars Daugavins being the most experienced with 91 games played from 2009-2013.

Late Goal Leads Russia to Victory over Czechs

Mikhail Grigorenko's late goal with just 19 seconds to go in the game helped hand Russia a 4-3 win in the tightest battle of the opening day in Latvia.

It didn't take long for Russia to put itself on the board first. With Filip Hronek in the box for high sticking, Anton Burdasov kicked things off with a wrist shot goal blocker side on Simon Hrubec on the power play to make it 1-0 at 4:16 - just as the man advantage was coming to a close. 

The Czechs would answer back on a dangerous scoring chance of their own before the first period hit the halfway point. Michael Spacek made a quick move around a Russian attacker and slipped it to Jakub Flek. Flek then took what looked to be a harmless wrist shot, but it just went through the arm of goaltender Alexander Samonov for the 1-1 goal.

The game continued its back-and-forth nature all the way to the final buzzer.  Vladislav Kamenev took got the play started when he stole the puck in the neutral zone and caught Artyom Shvets-Rogovoi alone past two Czech defenders. Svets-Rogovoi quickly flipped the puck over Simon Hrubec for the 2-1 goal, but the lead wouldn't last for long. Two minutes later, Jakub Vrana broke in all alone and scored after faking a wrister just seconds earlier, beating Alexander Samonov for the 2-2 goal before the buzzer ended the second stanza.

Russia would once again take the lead back at 45:28, this time with Alexander Barabanov grabbing the puck in the slot after it bounced back after a Czech giveaway. Dominik Kubalik would give the Czechs some hope with three minutes to go when he scored a power-play goal to tie the game at three, but Grigorenko's uncontested wrist shot with 19 seconds to go beat Hrubec for the game-winning goal.

Italy No Match For Germans Despite Early Lead

At one point in the game, Italy held a 2-1 lead over Germany. Unfortunately for the men in blue, red and green, Italy struggled to get pucks on net and Germany would ultimately take the big 9-4 victory on Friday in Riga.

Both teams traded chances early in the first, but it wasn't until 15:56 where someone was able to break the ice. Tom Kuhnhackl was the first to cause damage, getting the puck from Stefano Marchetti after he stole it off a defender and Kuhnhackl was able to catch Justin Fazio off guard with a backhander. 

But two minutes later, Alex Petan - the brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nic Petan - scored after Lukas Reichel gave the puck away in the neutral zone to make it 1-1. Italy then scored again 25 seconds later, this time coming from Luca Frigo on the rebound.

Unfortunately for the Italians, their lead wouldn't even last an entire minute until Moritz Muller beat Fazio up over the glove on a one-timer, sending the two teams into the intermission tied at two goals.

But that was the only real competitive period of the game. Italy could only muster another six shots the rest of the way, scoring twice but allowing seven. Tobias Rieder scored at 4:23 in the second and Frederik Tiffels added a power-play goal three minutes later to make it 4-2. Marcel Noebels would score a pair and Reichel would split them up with one of his own to give Germany five unanswered markers. The third period was a bit quieter, and Italy even had something to cheer about. Matias Plachta scored a goal while shorthanded off of a giveaway at 2:52 into the third period, but a pair of Italian goals from Daniel Frank and Anthony Bardaro would give Italy something to cheer about. Leo Pfoderl would add another for the Germans to seal the deal, giving them a big 9-4 win to open action in Riga.

Strong Opening Period Enough as Slovakia Downs Belarus

It was a tight game filled with penalties, but most of the damage was done early as Slovakia scored three times to seal the 5-2 win over Belarus. 

The game was Konstantin Shostak's first in the Belarusian net, but it didn't last long after three goals in 11:02 of play. At 3:53, Kristian Pospisil's shot beat a screened Shostak with a clean shot, opening the scoring for Slovakia. Five minutes later on the man advantage, Peter Cehlarik's goal went in in similar fashion, this time on the power play. Pospisil scored a second after Shostak had some company in front of him, finishing off his night early in favor of former NHLer Danny Taylor.

Taylor had a strong night the rest of the way, allowing just one goal before the final buzzer and making a couple of big stops in the meantime. The final goal came at 45:05 when Marek Hrivik avoided going offside to get the pass from Robert Lantosi, breaking past the Belarusian defenders before making a quick deke past Taylor for the 4-0 goal. 

It was a crushing moment for Belarus, who thought they scored in the second period. Yegor Sharangovich beat Branislav Konrad through a screen, but the goal was reviewed and later waved off because Andrei Belevich had his foot in the crease. Belarus got a pair of goals late from Mikhail Stefanovich and Yegor Sharangovich to cut the lead in half, but by then, Slovakia's lead proved to be too much. Cehlarik added an empty-netter and Konrad made a save on a penalty shot to finish the game off in Slovakia's favor.


Three Stars:

1. Matiss Kivlenieks, G (LAT): Should have been more lopsided than it was. The Blue Jackets prospect put on one heck of a performance with a 38-save shutout.

2. Marcel Noebels, F (GER): Two goals and an assist to earn best player honors in a lopsided victory for Germany. He was everywhere in the offensive zone.

3. Mikhail Grigorenko, F (RUS): An assist and the game-winning goal helped seal the deal for Russia in a game that was far from easy.


May 22 Schedule

Denmark vs. Sweden - 5:15 AM ET
Norway vs. Germany - 5:15 AM ET
USA vs. Finland - 9:15 AM ET
Great Britian vs. Russia - 9:15 AM ET
Czech Republic vs. Switzerland - 1:15 PM ET
Latvia vs. Kazakhstan - 1:15 PM ET


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