SPISSKA NOVA VES, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 21: Latvia's Verners Egle #9 celebrates with teammates after scoring a first period goal against Belarus during relegation round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Egle’s 3 points evens series with Belarus
Verners Egle’s second goal and third point of the game with 4:53 left in regulation time gave Latvia the win, and saved them from relegation - for now
“We scored as many goals today as we did the rest of the tournament,” Egle said after the game, and he’s right - Latvia scored three goals in its first five games of the tournament combined.
For the winner, it was Viktors Jasunov’s who cut in hard to the net and goaltender Andrei Grishenko saved it, but Egle swooped in from the opposite side to sweep in the rebound.
“Of course I’m happy with my game today - I don’t score that many goals,” said the Madison Capitols forward who scored five goals in 54 USHL and NAPHL games this season, “and I’m proud of my whole team. It was really difficult, but we knew we had to win, so we came out really hard.”
As opposed to yesterday, when they seemed back on their heels, the Latvians came out with quite a bit of jump in Game 2 and it was Egle who got the game’s first goal on the power play. Taking a pass on the right wing half-wall, he walked in to the faceoff dot and fired a wrister over the near-side shoulder of Andrei Grishenko and into the roof of the net.
“We got more shots to the net today, that’s why we came up with those rebounds and goals, and we worked on our power play and that helped us too,” Egle figured. “Today the boys were just more ready than yesterday.”
After getting somewhat outplayed in the first period, the Belarusians found their skating legs in the second period and started using their speed to generate chances. Midway through the period they tied it when Vladislav Yeryomenko burned a Latvian defenceman to the outside and cut in on Rauza. The Latvian goalie made the save but Sergei Sapego followed up the play and put in the rebound.
Belarus had some jump and nearly took the lead a minute later when Rauza made a great save off Vasily Filyayev, but it was Latvia who had the lead after 40 minutes. With just over three minutes remaining in the period, Deniss Smirnovs buried a loose puck as players were scrambling in front of the Belarus net.
Wanting to secure their place in next year’s tournament today, Belarus pushed hard again and Sapego’s point shot was tipped in by Andrei Pavlenko with 10:02 to play.
“I thought, ‘Oh no, not again!’” Egle admitted afterward. “But you’ve just gotta keep working through it. That’s what happens - it’s hockey.”
And the Belarusians continued to press. A minute after the equalizer there was a big scramble in Rauza’s crease, and the Latvian goalie couldn’t find the puck, but neither could any Belarusian forward as the puck slid parallel to the goal line and out the other side.
Eventually it was Egle who scored the winning goal, however. That means that everything will be decided on Sunday. The winner will stay up and the loser will be relegated to Division I, Group B.
“Oh yeah it’s a huge game,” Egle understated. “We’ll prepare just as always. We’ve got a day off and we’ll relax a little bit and come out ready.”