by Lisa McRitchie on 12/28/11 at 05:30 AM ET
In front of the Calgary crowd of 12 598 on the second day of competition, it was the goaltenders for both Latvia and Slovakia that defined the game. Kristers Gudlevskis stopping 42 or 44 shots faced was named player of the game for Latvia and Jurjaj Simboch turned away 25 of 26 shots on goal to be named player of the game for Slovakia.
Slovakian goaltender Jurjaj Simboch
The crowd in Calgary was smaller than previous games, and most would say it was the appeal of the two teams, neither which are expected to make an appearance in the medal round. At the same time, there is also the popular Mac’s Midget Tournament that competes for hockey attendance.
As such, the pro-Latvian crowd was forgiving of the fact that it appeared to take Latvia longer to find their feet than Slovakia. This was surprising as Latvia had played Sweden the day before in a Boxing Day matchup. Latvia struggled to set up during their first power play of the game in the first period, but did not give up.
Just some of the Latvia fans in Calgary Tuesday night
Juris Ziemins of Team Latvia was the first to break the scoreless tie pouncing on a rebound of Arturs Kuzmenkovs’ shot from the point. This goal was one of hard work and determination as well as a lucky bounce.
Slovakia responded ten minutes later with a tip in power play marker from Tomas Jurco and assists to both Slovakian Oiler prospects Martin Gernat and Martin Marincin. Both Slovakian defencemen currently play in the WHL and currently appear to be more offensively gifted. While both players develop defencively they may be considered project defencemen by many.
In terms of size, Marincin and Gernat have little to no differences, both are tall and slender. The only difference that is easily seen on the scoresheet, is that Marincin is a year older. Both Martin’s were paired for the game, with Gernat playing on the right most of the time. Marincin saw time on the penalty kill while Gernat did not. This is likely due to the fact that Gernat suffered a pre-tournament upper body injury and may still be feeling some lingering effects. Following the game, Gernat who speaks English with more confidence and clarity said “I got upper body injury and I can’t play really physically but, they [Team Latvia] play hard.” If Gernat is still sore from an upper body injury, it would make sense to keep him out of the penalty kill situation where he would need to play a more physical role as well as block more shots.
Slovakia found their first lead of the game as Marek Tvrdon scored his first of the tournament, even strength. Latvia continued to compete, but a roughing penalty to team captain Kristians Pelss only hindered the quest for the equalizing goal.
An empty net goal for Michal Toman, who earned two points in this his first game, would earn Slovakia their first win of the tournament, and Latvia would fall to 0-2.
“It was a hard game,” Said Slovakia’s Martin Gernat following the game. “We start really hard but we play well and they are good skaters. We had a little problem with the start, but we played well after and we score three goals that we needed. We, the whole team are happy.” His defencive partner Martin Marincin told a similar story, but in his own words “It was a very tough game and I’m happy that it’s finished now.”
Oiler prospect Kristians Pelss is captain of Team Latvia and although playing against his Oil Kings teammate Martin Gernat may give Pelss some advantages, there were still challenges “Last time in the penalty kill, I almost got him. But he’s good too.” Pelss said of Gernat. “I just tried to play hard and just think about the game and try to do everything you can.” Pelss was much faster in this his second game of the tournament, but doesn’t chalk this up to game jitters on Tuesday, just the game itself.
Oil Kings teammates Martin Gernat and Kristians Pelss found themselves on opposite sides of the ice Tuesday night.
Netminder Kristers Gudlevskis was clearly disappointed with his team’s results, but seems to have already put the loss behind him “One shot could change the whole game. It was a difficult game, but it’s a game. Hopefully the next game will be better.” Gudlevskis said through his teammate Pelss.
Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis
The competition doesn’t get any easier for either team. Slovakia faces Russia Wednesday while Latvia gets a day off before facing Russia on Thursday. Russia’s goaltender Andrei Vasilevski was the player and story of the game Monday night and if either Slovakia or Latvia find themselves up against Vasilevski, it will be a difficult challenge.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
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