International Ice Hockey Federation

Latvia edges Austria

Daugavins wins it in OT, Austria last in Group A

Published 09.05.2015 19:07 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Latvia edges Austria
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 9: Latvia's Lauris Darzins #10 celebrates with Guntis Galvins #13 after scoring a second period goal against Austria during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
In the battle to avoid relegation, Latvia got the jump on Austria in Group A with a 2-1 overtime victory on Saturday. Kaspars Daugavins got the winner at 0:33.

Lauris Darzins assisted on the goal, which came off the rush. He scored Latvia's opening marker as well, set up by Daugavins. This duo is red-hot right now, both enjoying a six-game point streak.

"It was just a great play by 'Darzy' again," Daugavins said. "I just had to close my eyes and shoot."

Most importantly, it was a big two points for the small Baltic state. Both teams entered this confrontation with two points apiece, tied for fewest in the group. Austria at least still has a game in hand.

Latvia now sits sixth, behind Germany and ahead of France. They are no longer mathematically in contention for the quarter-finals, but their odds of returning for 2016 have improved.

Brian Lebler had the lone goal for Austria.

Latvian starting goalie Edgars Masalskis outduelled Austria's Bernhard Starkbaum in front of 12,735 fans. Final shots favoured Austria 29-18.

"It was difficult for us because it was our second game in 24 hours," said Masalskis. "It's hard to play in this rink. It's very hot in here. It takes a lot of water from you."

"We dominated the whole game," said Michael Raffl, Austria's lone NHLer here in Prague.  "We were the better team but we couldn't capitalize on our scoring chances. It's tough to win hockey games if you just score once."

Less than three minutes in, a scrum broke out after Michael Raffl was caught looking down and got rocked with a high left shoulder from Aleksandrs Jerofejevs. The Latvian defenceman received a minor for checking to the head and neck area and a misconduct. Raffl continued to play in the game.

Around the five-minute mark, Austria defenceman Patrick Peter tripped on the puck inside his own blue line, enabling Miks Indrasis to steal it and race in alone, but Starkbaum kicked out his right pad to make a nice close-in save.

With 3:53 left in the first period, Lebler entered the right faceoff circle, took a nice pass from Michael Raffl from the side boards and whipped it past Masalskis on the blocker side for a 1-0 lead.

During a cautiously played second period, the Austrians generated their best pressure on a mid-period power play with Maksims Sirokovs off for hooking. But they couldn’t increase their lead. Some of the biggest cheers came when the big video screen showed two guys wearing 18th-century wigs and Falco’s “Amadeus” blasted through the O2 Arena.

Would Austria be able to hold on to its lead in an act of Mozart-like genius? Not this time.

At 12:15 of the middle frame, Darzins knotted the game at 1-1. He brought the puck down the left side and sent it cross-ice to Daugavins, whose return feed from down low took a crazy bounce off defenceman Florian Iberer. That enabled Darzins to fire it into a half-empty net from the hash marks. It was Darzins’ third goal of the tournament.

The third period witnessed momentum shifts. After Latvia killed off a Roberts Bukarts tripping minor halfway through, it started pressing for the go-ahead goal. Bukarts fired a tricky shot off the wing that Starkbaum got with his glove. Mikelis Redlihs unleashed a bomb from the high slot that hit the goalie's mid-section.

With under seven minutes to play, Austria had a fantastic opportunity to take the lead again. Thomas Hundertpfund got a 2-on-1 with captain Thomas Raffl and made a beautiful cross-ice pass, but Masalskis read it perfectly, sliding across to foil Raffl on the doorstep.

"We should thank our goalie," said Daugavins. "He kept us in the game all night."

Hunterpfund nearly played the goat when he took a hooking penalty at 15:08. But the Latvian power play proved punchless.

The Austrians were unlucky not to claim the victory in the dying moments of regulation.

Thomas Raffl almost got the winner when he undressed blueliner Oskars Cibulskis with a through-the-legs move on the rush and zipped a low one that Masalskis went down to block.

Michael Raffl burst through the Latvian defence and forced Masalskis to make one more great stop in the last minute of regulation.

"We had better legs," Michael Raffl said. "We were working harder than them. It's really hard to lose a game like that, especially if you're dominating for 60 minutes  and then they just put one in in OT. That's hockey."

"This was an important game," said Masalskis. "We didn't get the three points we wanted, so now we can't make the quarter-finals. But at the same time, looking at the way the game was going, we should be happy with two points."

Austria takes on Germany on Monday, while the Latvians finish their round-robin schedule against France on Tuesday.