Wanting to show that it wasn't happy competing in this year's Relegation Round at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships, Team USA showed no mercy against Latvia in their 1st of 2 Relegation Round Games with a 12-2 win over Latvia this afternoon at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. With this win, it secures the Americans Place at next year's World Junior Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia.
They will finish up this year's WJC Tournament tomorrow at at 4:00 PM against Switzerland who thinks their victory against Denmark yesterday, they will be battling for pride and for 7th Place as the winner of the Relegation Round. However for Latvia & Denmark, it's a battle for survival as they will play at at 12:00 PM Tomorrow.
The winner will earn the final spot for next year's WJC Tournament, while the loser will finish in last place and will be relegated down to the WJC Division 1 Tournament with the likes of Norway, Austria & Slovenia next season in a location that is TBD.
As for tonight's Semifinals, 1st up is Sweden VS. Finland at 4:00 PM where Sweden ended up winning Group A with a 2-2-0-0 record with OT Wins over Sweden (4-3) & Switzerland (4-3), while also getting regulation wins over a plucky Latvia Team (9-4) and crushed Slovakia (9-1) with a 5 goal outburst in the 3rd period.
While Finland finished 2nd in Group B coming out to a bad start with an 8-1 loss to Canada in the Tournament's Opening Game. The Finns have comeback impressively with wins over the USA (4-1), Denmark (10-1) & the Czech Republic (4-0). Then in yesterday's Quarterfinal Game against Slovakia, it was the Finns winning a scoring fest with a 4 goal outburst in the 2nd period to win 8-5 over Slovakia.
The other Semifinal Game will come down to one of the world's oldest rivalries as Canada VS. Russia will duke it out in a rematch of last year's Championship Game where Russia pulled off an unlikely comeback from 3-0 down in the 3rd period to win 5-3 in last year's Gold Medal Game to win the WJC for the 1st time since 2003.
Canada had a perfect Group Stage with wins over the USA (3-2), Finland (8-3), Czech Republic (5-0) & Denmark (10-2) as they look to win the Nations first Gold Medal since 2009 when Canada won in Ottawa, Ontario.
Finally for Russia, a strong 3-0-1-0 record with an impressive +18 GD and a with one of the better Defense's in a very long time. It was wins over Switzerland (3-0), Latvia (14-0) & Slovakia (3-1). So far this year, their only loss came in their Group Stage Finale against Sweden 4-3 in OT. Then in yesterday's Quarterfinal, it was a tough battle against a Czech Republic team with arguably this year's best goalie Peter Marek who made 50+ saves in a 2-1 OT Loss against the Czech Republic.
The Russians are looking to win back-to-back Gold Medals since 2002 & 2003 as well. Also with the WJC Tournament in Ufa, Russia next season, back-to-back Gold Medals would really spark the Russian Fans to really support the Russian National Team next season.
So far this year, the Russians went 3-0-0-1 in the Group Stage with
USA 12 Latvia 2 (4-0, 7-1, 1-1)
Press Release by Andrew Podnieks of the IIHF Website
USA VS. Latvia Game Photos
From Calgary, Alberta: Austin Watson scored three goals in the first period and seven points in total to lead the United States to an easy but crucial 12-2 win over Latvia. The win ensures the U.S. will not be relegated to Division 1 for 2013 and will be in Ufa, Russia next Christmas.
Latvia's loss places a huge importance on tomorrow's game with Denmark. The winner joins the U.S. in Ufa with the rest of the Top Division Teams while the loser gets relegated.
"The biggest thing we wanted to prove is that we believe we shouldn't be in the Relegation Round," Watson said. "We wanted to come out and have a strong game. We showed that were capable of playing with the guys in the Medal Round. It was about playing for country, playing for the crest on our jersey, not worrying about what happened in the past. Just worrying about the present and the moment we're in."
The Americans finish their tournament with a game against Switzerland for 1st Place in the Relegation Round standings at stake.
"We're not where we want to be tonight, but we need to keep our heads up," added Nick Bjugstad. "We've had a rough outing, but we're playing for the sweater and it was great to have a good performance (Against Latvia). It was kind of good to show up this game from an offensive standpoint."
In addition to Watson's seven points, Nick Bjugstad had 3 goals and 5 points and Brandon Saad added four assists. The Americans doubled their opponents in SOG, 58-29.
Watson's three goals in the first were all set up by different teammates. On the opening tally, at 5:40, he redirected a Jared Tinordi point shot. On the 2nd, it was a nice fed from Jon Merrill to the side, and on the third it was Kyle Rau who found Watson in the slot.
Latvian starting goalie Kristers Gudlevskis was replaced early in the 2nd period after the fifth American Goal, but his replacement, Rihards Cimermanis fared worse, allowing six more goals in 19:04 of the 2nd. As a result Gudlevskis was back in for the 3rd period, allowing just one goal.
The first Latvian Goal came at 2:03 of the 2nd period on a shot by Zemgus Girgensons that beat Jack Campbell under the blocking arm. Their 2nd, near the end of the game, came when Teodors Blugers passed the puck in front of the U.S. Net only to have U.S. Defensemen Austin Czarnik redirect it passed his own goalie.
The huge win allowed the Americans to pad their stats, as it were. After scoring only five goals in their last three games, they piled on the goals even without even trying to hard, they were sent to the Relegation Round was an unlikely scenario, but the team bit the bullet and took it to the Latvians.
"We still have to beat Denmark, no matter what," Bulgers said. That's the big game, we need to refocus. We definitely need to play better on defense, man-to-man coverage, getting back. We had to many guys caught up in the rush and gave up too many odd-man rushes.
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