After what can only be considered one of the best hockey games of the year, France and Latvia will stay alive and Austria will sent back to Division IA after the French were able to take down the Latvians 3-2 in the shootout.

Neither Latvia or France have been able to score a lot in this tournament. For Latvia, the team only had nine goals in six games heading into the tournament, with Kaspars Daugavins scoring four of them. So, by that account, it was kind of fitting when Daugavins took a pass from a mishandle by Lauris Darzins from the slot, firing it past Cristobal Huet for the 1-0 goal at the halfway point of the first.

For the French, scoring hasn’t been much better. Just like with Daugavins, who had mow scored five of the ten Latvian goals, Damien Fleury has scored on 50% of France’s goals, which also happened to be ten. Antoine Roussel, an the only current NHLer on the roster, has been silent all tournament long, scoring zero goals while adding 34 penalty minutes. He did have a very good chance to score near the end of the period, tipping a pass from Fleury towards the net. Unfortunately for him, his snake bitten tournament would continue, just hitting the post before losing control of the rebound.

France would find themselves down in a big hole early in the second. 1:40 into the period, Fleury found himself in the box after knocking into a Latvian defender in an attempt to avoid him during a play. It may not have been intentional, at least from the look of it, but the ref’s decided that it was worthy of a charging penalty. On the power-play, defenseman Guntis Galvins blew a fast one over Huet’s glove hand to make it 2-0 Latvia. It was just their third shot of the game after 23 minutes of play, and all three of them happened to come on the power-play, showing an inability to control the game while playing even strength.

Despite being down on the scoreboard, the French did have a solid second period. Thanks to three Latvian penalties, France would eventually end the period with ten shots, giving them a 22-7 advantage after 40 minutes. It wasn’t until the 34th minute of the game that the Latvians were even able to record a shot while playing even strength, meaning that France was doing a good job at limiting the quality chances. Edgars Masaļskis was huge during that time, making 22 saves as the Latvians would take the 2-0 lead heading into the third and most important period.

The third period was massive. For both teams, a loss in regulation would result in relegation. With France trailing 2-0, they obviously needed to have a huge period to catch up and avoid heading back down to Division IA for the first time since 2007.

Somebody other than Fleury was going to have to score, and finally, with over 11 minutes left in the third, France would score. Of course, Fleury had something to do with it, creating the original rush and taking the shot that Masalskis deflected right in the air. The Latvian netminder made a big save on the play, but the puck found its way onto Stephane Da Costa’s stick, who banged in the rebound from a few feet in for the 2-1 goal. It was Da Costa’s first goal of the tournament, as the former Ottawa Senator missed three games in the tournament due to injury problems.

The enormous offensive pressure put on by the French would turn the game completely around. With 4:40 left, Sacha Treille kept the puck in the zone long enough to allow Kevin Hecquefeuille to get a chance around the net. Instead, the puck went right back to Treille, whose long shot from the blue line tipped right off the blocker and in to tie the game up late.

After Masalskis made a huge save on Julien Desrosiers in the dying seconds of regulation, the game would require overtime. In the overtime, both teams had some incredible scoring chances, starting with a wraparound attempt by Kristaps Sotnieks that hit the post. At the other end, Hecquefeuille just lost a handle after trying to tip in a goal, extending the game even further. Da Costa had a splendid chance right before the buzzer rang to signal the end of overtime, getting stopped by Masalskis’ shoulder before slightly tapping the post on the rebound.

Austria’s hopes and dreams all relied on the shootout. If Latvia won, France would go down. If the French won, Austria wouldn’t be fans of the Latvians. All three French shooters would find the back of the net, while Latvia’s one goal past Huet wouldn’t be good enough as Da Costa would once again find the back of the net to win 3-2 and save France from relegation.

After an incredible week and a half of action, Latvia and France will stay alive, while Austria will go back to Division IA. It will be the sixth time since 2005 that Austria will find themselves heading back to the second best group, earning instant promotion every single year they’ve participated in it. In their place will come Kazakhstan, who went 5-0 at the DIA tournament this year after getting relegated a year prior.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

7 Responses

  1. Joe

    Dumb format. Austria, Latvia and France all have five points. Denmark has four. Yet Austria gets sent down. Again.


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