Out with pride
- Davide Tuniz from Bern
Canada win as expected its quarter-final vs Latvia but Baltics fought to the last breath
In an hot afternoon in Bern, Latvia searches what will be not only an historic victory (in 10 games vs Canada, Latvians lost nine time and draw one) but a real feat, good for give players a place among national heroes. Canada perfect record was stained by Finland in last game, but Lindy Ruff's team seems the best equipped for final victory. Rising star Steve Stamkos pursuing to continue his perfect campaign until now: 6 games and 6 goals. Game begins in a strange atmosphere, with fans more concentrated on game then cheering, and also teams on ice have a slow start: Canada tests Edgars Masalskis reflexes just after six minutes, during first powerplay, with Shane Doan's shot and then a Marty St. Louis' assolo. Latvia shows immediately it doesn't want to be a sacrificial lamb and Guntis Dzerins keeps Chris Mason awake. At min. 10 Shawn Horcoff has a great chance but Masalskis is superb rebounding.
Masalskis reaching for the puck
Photo: Roman Kucera
Boring atmosphere infected also players on ice and first period has some fireworks just in final two minutes when Canada produces a lot of chances in power play, but some fantastic Masalskis' saves and a bit of imprecision from Canadian forwards keeps the score blanked at first intermission.
Central period has first emotion after five minutes, when a mistake of Latvian attack send Mike Fisher alone versus Masalskis, but Baltic goalie is again ready to rebound. Finally at 26:37 Canada opens the score: smart pass by Shea Weber to Derek Roy, number 9 serves Dany Heatley for finalization. Baltics don't react and Masalskis is superb on Travis Zajac, Marty St. Louis and Mike Fisher in two minutes following Canadian advantage. Latvia survives at this wave but is overwhelmed by the next one: at 34:03 Dan Hamhuis takes aim and scores with an accurate shot near the post. Road to semifinal seems levelled for Canada but Latvia finds a great goal in short-hand with Guntis Galvis finalizing a counterattack seconds after end of double advantage for Canada. It needs just 17 seconds to clarify Canada intentions: timely comes 7th goal in 7 matches for Steve Stamkos, ready to score after Masalskis save on Hamhuis.
After one minute and half in last period Latvia starts again to dream: from same Hamhuis position, Herberts Vasiljevs scores to reanimate fans. But it's not the day of surprises: two minutes later Matthew Lombardi restores two goals'gap. Baltics plays better then stronger opponents in last period and is Chris Mason to have more work. With 5 minutes to play Olegs Znarok decides to pull goalie and play 30 seconds 6vs3 and almost all last minutes with one man advantage on ice to show Latvian's will to fight until end. Miracle doesn't happened and final score reward a cynic Canada: it's seventh straight semi-final berth for North Americans: the last stop at quarters was in 2002 when Slovakia produced the first upset of its fantastic World Championship, evidently Canada learn well that lesson
Canada - Latvia 4-2 (0-0,3-1,1-1)
1-0 26:37 Dany Heatley (Derek Roy,Shea Weber)
2-0 34:03 Dan Hamhuis (Steve Stamkos,Drew Doughty)PP
2-1 37:30 Guntis Galvins (Herberts Vasiljevs)SH
3-1 37:47 Steve Stamkos (Dan Hamhuis)PP
3-2 41:27 Herberts Vasiljevs (Aleksandrs Nizivijs,Aleksejs Sirokov)
4-2 43:07 Matthew Lombardi (Colby Armstrong,Braydon Coburn)
PIM: 8x2+1x10(Hamhuis) - 7x2+1x10(Darzins) SOG: 48-23 Att: 8.042
MVP: Derek Roy - Martins Cipulis
3 best Latvian players of whole tournament: Aleksandrs Nizivijs, Edgars Masalskis, and Karlis Skrastins.