World Championship Recap: Slovaks Stun Russia and Canada Loses Again

Canada's nightmarish tournament continues after running in to a hot goaltender. Plus, Slovakia shocks Russia, the Czechs finally have a reason to celebrate and Latvia earns another shutout.
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IIHF men's world championship

Canada Still Without a Victory as Germany Remains Perfect

Canada's hopes of making the quarter-finals are becoming tougher and tougher after losing 3-1 to Germany on Monday, putting them down 0-3 to start the tournament.

Canada has only mustered two goals through three outings with a goal differential of minus-seven. Canada and Italy remain the only teams in Group B without a victory, while Germany takes over the top spot by two points over Latvia.

It was Germany's first win against Canada at the tournament in 25 years, with the underdog team taking a 5-1 win to help secure the last playoff spot in the group at the time. 

German netminder Mathias Niederberger was the star of the show, highlighted by a 19-save effort in the second period. Canada was throwing anything they could past him but he stayed calm and collected in the crease, deflecting nearly every shot away.

At 10:46, Stefan Loibl's shot caught Adin Hill off guard by sending a wrist shot just outside the slot on a quick opportunity, going over Adin Hill's glove and in to make it 1-0. Less than a minute later, Mattias Plachta doubled Germany's advantage when his shot from a tough angle bounced off of Hill's pads and in before it could get to Lukas Reichel beside the net, giving Germany a 2-0 advantage. 

Nick Paul would give Canada just its second goal of the tournament at 18:19 when his shot whistled over Niederberger, who couldn't see the puck with some traffic in front.

From there, the Germans went into full defensive mode. Nearly everyone was willing to throw their bodies around to block the shot, and when the puck got past them, Niederberger was there to make a couple of big saves. Niederberger ended up with 39 saves in the contest, stopping the final nine sent his way in the third period as Germany secured the unlikely win in the shades of the nation's semifinal victory over Canada at the 2018 Olympics.

Slovakia Beats Russia for First Time Since 2004

In a tournament full of history-making moments, it only made sense that Slovakia would beat Russia for the first time in nearly 20 years, taking a 3-1 victory to take the top spot in Group B.

This is the first time that Slovakia has gone 3-0 to start the tournament since 2015, albeit with just one regulation win in that frame.

It took exactly 30 minutes for the deadlock to finally be broken. Alex Samonov looked good in the first half, but Milos Kelemen would score after a skilled move by Milos Roman to get possession ahead of the pass that led to the 1-0 goal. The lead wouldn't last for long, though, as Alex Barabanov scored 1:06 left in the second period on the man advantage to send the game tied heading into the second intermission. 

Russia struggled to find momentum early in the third and after a couple of big stops by Julius Hudacek, the Slovaks were able to strike next. Martin Gernat scored on the man advantage when his point shot went through traffic and beat Samonov, who, just seconds later, lost sight of the puck and had issues tracking the play. Russia would try and answer back but Marek Daloga scored an empty net goal with 1:01 left to go to seal the deal, giving Slovakia its first win over Russia in 17 years.

“We have to stay that way, compete and in the next game we have to keep doing what we did in these three,” Gernat said following the game. “I don’t know if it sends a message to the other teams here. We just go, that’s all."

Latvia Grabs Second Shutout of Tournament

Latvia's strong run in Group B play continues following a 3-0 win over Italy - a game that had three goals taken back in an otherwise lopsided affair.

Latvia outshot Italy 44-12 in the contest, highlighted by a 17-3 advantage in the middle stanza. Ivar Punnanovs secured the shutout for Latvia for his first win at this tournament, while Justin Fazio 43 attempts sent his way for his best personal performance at the World Championship.

"After the game, I went to him and told him he's a good goalie," Punnanovs said in regards to Fazio's performance. "He played a great, great game, and he's an Italian hero."

Martins Karsums scored the game's lone five-a-side goal at 32:08 when scored on a rebound, beating Fazio after a giveaway from Latvian defender Gregorio Gios. Karsums added an empty netter late in the game, as did Lauris Darzins to finish the scoring. 

Italy believed they scored to tie the game up early in the third. Alex Petan beat the Latvian netminder on the man advantage at 1:14, but the goal was disallowed after it was deemed that Italy went offside on the play. The goal gave Latvia a bit of relief after Miks Indrasis and Enrico Miglioranzi had their goals taken away earlier in the game, but it didn't matter in the end.

Czechs Finally on the Board

The Czechs didn't want a repeat of their 5-2 loss to Switzerland over the weekend, shaking off an average start against Belarus to win 3-2 in overtime on Monday.

The win is a welcome change for the Czechs after starting 0-2 for the first time in tournament history. Belarus put in a good fight but wasn't able to wrangle the same magic it had Monday when they topped Sweden 1-0 - also the first time that's happened at this tournament.

Despite the loss, Belarus still managed to strike first. Yegor Sharangovich would stick with the play after Sergei Kostitsyn's shot was blocked by a defender, but Sharangovich got the puck past Simon Hrubec on the second chance to make it 1-0. 

The Czechs answered back four minutes later when Jan Kovar tapped in a feed from Filip Hronek, beating Alexei Kolosov by the right pad to make it 1-1. Kolosov, a prospect for the 2021 NHL draft, was good throughout the game, but a pair of Detroit Red Wings players would give the Czechs the 2-1 lead. Hronek would get his second point of the night to feed Filip Zadina, with Zadina's wrist shot proving to be too much for Kolosov.

Belarus was looking for something to go their way and with eight minutes to go in the third, they got their wish. On a quick wrist shot, Vladislav Yeryomenko beat a screened Hrubec to tie it up at two apiece.

The game needed extra time, and on the Czech's first good scoring chance in overtime, they got the win. Chicago Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik was able to use his speed to break in alone and deked out Kolosov glove side for the winner, giving the Czechs its first points of the tournament.

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Three Stars

1. Mathias Niederberger, G (GER): This could also go to Germany's penalty killers, but Niederberger was tremendous in one of his best national team performances ever.

2. Justin Fazio, G (ITA): He had a couple of rough outings to begin his World Championship tenure with his new nation, but he gave Italy a great chance at winning today.

3. Filip Hronek, D (CZE): He was the Czechs most noticeable player with two points and has easily been one of the team's bright spots in Riga. 

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