The Latvians knew they had a tough draw with 3 world class teams in Group B. Unfortunately, after their 3rd straight blowout loss to Slovakia on Friday, things won’t get much easier, as they’ll be the 8th and lowest seed in the qualification round, meaning they’ll draw the top remaining team after the first round byes are determined.
The Slovaks dominated this one from start to finish, out shooting the Latvians 37-21 over the game, and 13-5 in the first period. Lubomir Visnovsky opened the scoring with a powerplay goal less than 3 minutes in, followed by goals from Richard Zednik and Jozef Stumpel to put this one out of reach before the first period was even over. Stumpel added an assist on Visnovsky’s goal and another on Marian Hossa’s powerplay goal to start the 2nd.
Jaroslav Halak turned in another solid effort, stopping all 21 Latvian shots, and has been one of the better goalies in the tournament so far. He held the star-studded Russian offense to a single goal, and will be a big part of any success that the Slovaks hope to have in the medal rounds. Michal Handzus and Ivan Baranka added tallies of their own to stretch the Slovaks’ lead to 6-0 and give them an edge in goal differential over Switzerland and Belarus, who also finished the preliminary round with 5 points, after they were able to knock off Norway and Germany in their last games of round robin play.