SPISSKA NOVA VES, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 20: Igor Martynov #7 of Belarus celebrates after scoring a second period goal against Latvia's Niklavs Rauza #30 during relegation round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Latvia needs 2 straight wins to avoid relegation
In the first game of the best-of-three relegation series, Belarus defeated Latvia 2-0.
Vladislav Yeryomenko figured in on both Belarusian goals, while Andrei Grishenko made 17 saves for the shutout. At the other end, a busy Niklavs Rausa stopped 29 of 30 shots for Latvia.
The first period was defensively played, with Belarus outshooting Latvia 6-5, but the only real scoring chance of the period didn’t get recorded as a shot - on a 2-on-1 rush, Artyom Anosov fired a pass from Sergei Sapogo off the goalpost.
After the evenly played period, Belarus dominated the middle frame by outshooting Latvia 15-3. Rausa was brilliant in goal, however, and nearly kept the Belarusians off the scoresheet.
The first goal of the game was finally scored with just over a minute to go in the period. From a faceoff in the Latvian zone, Yeryomenko’s point shot was stopped by Rausa, but Igor Martynov was there to sweep in the rebound.
The Latvians tried to mount an offensive in the third period, but Belarus played tight defence and the chances they did have, they failed to capitalize on. Grishenko made perhaps his biggest save of the night halfway through the final period on a one-timer from Dennis Smirnovs.
With a late power play, the Latvians pulled Rausa for a 6-on-4 advantage in the final minute, but Yeryomenko scored into the empty net to put the game away.
Belarus is playing in its first IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in the top division since hosting the event in Minsk in 2010, and now the team is one win away from returning to next year’s tournament in Russia. Latvia, meanwhile, is playing in the top division for the second straight year, but now must win two in a row to make it a third.