Two goals eleven minutes and six seconds into the contest seemed to send some sort of signal the CZECH REPUBLIC were in for a training game against LATVIA in the qualification round at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
First, with the Czechs on the power play, TOMAS ROLINEK of Russian club Metallurg Magnitogorsk backhanded the rebound from Ottawa Senators defenseman FILIP KUBA’s point shot behind Latvia goaltender EDGARS MASALSKIS of Dynamo Riga just before the six minute mark.
Then, TOMAS FLEISCHMANN of the Washington Capitals wristed a shot from the slot past Masalskis after a fine setup from Boston Bruins forward DAVID KREJCI, who had taken the puck after fine board work from teammate ROMAN CERVENKA of Slavia Prague behind the net.
But Masalskis, who would finish the game with 48 saves, immediately thereafter slammed the door on the Czech Republic for the remainder of regulation play in what was easily the 29-year-old veteran Latvian international’s best effort at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Meanwhile, the scrappy but heavily outshot Latvians continued to skate and play for a break.
Such opportunity arrived with eight minutes left in the match when a centered puck from Lativa’s ALEKSANDRS NIZIVIJS skipped to MARTINS CIPULIS in the slot. The 29-year-old Dynamo Riga forward quickly whacked the disc past Czech goaltender TOMAS VOKOUN of the Florida Panthers to cut the Latvian deficit in half.
Suitably energized and the beneficiaries of a bit of good fortune, Latvia pulled level tunate bounce with less than four minutes remaining in regulation. The well-traveled ARMANDS BERZINS, a Minnesota Wild draft pick, saw his one-timer from the slot miss the net but bounce off the boards straight to Dynamo Riga’s MIKELIS REDLIHS at the side of the net. The 25-year-old forward was able to bundle the biscuit into the back of the net and lift Latvia to a remarkable 2-2 draw.
And, thus, extra time was required.
A little more than halfway through the overtime session, the Czech Republic booked their passage into the quarterfinal round. Krejci collected a drop pass from Fleischmann in the offensive zone and, after faking the slapshot, cut to his right to shoot between Masalskis’ legs for the game-winning-goal.
The Czechs could breathe a collective sigh of relief.
CZECH REPUBLIC 3 – LATVIA 2 — (overtime)
Shots-on-goal : Czech Republic 50 – Latvia 26
CZE goals : Rolinek, Fleischmann
LAT goals : Cipulis, M. Redlihs
Two Kontinental Hockey Leaguers converge — Lativa’s GINTS MEIJA (87) of Dynamo Riga mixes with the Czech Republic’s TOMAS ROLINEK of Russian club Metallurg Magnitogorsk. (Harry How/Getty Images)