Team USA and Team Latvia got their 2017 World Junior Championships started with a game against each other on Boxing Day. By the time the game ended, the result was what was to be expected, a massive American win. That being said, it didn’t exactly go down that way.
Not What They Expected
The first half of the game was a complete surprise. Going into the game, you would think that the Americans would totally out-class a team like Latvia — after all, Latvia’s best finish at a World Junior tournament is eighth place. However, Latvia came out and played a really good first. They forced the play at times and didn’t back down when the game got physical. Even though Patrick Harper got the scoring started for the US at the 6:27 mark, Latvia came in and tied the game just under 10 minutes later off a breakaway goal by Renars Krastenbergs.
The second period was much of the same for the first half of the second period. In fact, Latvia pretty much controlled the pace during that time period. However, it wouldn’t last as mistakes would lead to goals by Colin White and Clayton Keller making it 3-1 before the end of the second. The Latvians also couldn’t take advantage of numerous odd-man rushes and a 5-on-3 power play. What’s worse is that they couldn’t even muster one shot on that two-man advantage.
Team USA Roars Back
The third period completely fell apart for the Latvians as the Americans finally took over the game. Keller scored his second goal of the game at the 12:19 mark of the third. Jeremy Bracco and Jordan Greenway both scored in the final three minutes of the game making it a 6-1 final.
All in all, the Latvians tried to hold on as long as they could but in the end it was too much. The line of Keller, White and Tage Thompson was absolutely on fire, coming out of the game with six points. By the time that Keller scored his second goal, it seemed as though the game was already over. The Bracco and Greenway goals were just icing on the cake, making it look like the game most of us expected it to be.
Martins Dzierkals Speaks
On playing at the Air Canada Centre.
“It’s a wonderful feeling certainly. That’s my team, that’s the team where I got drafted. I was here at the World Cup, watching games and it’s an amazing atmosphere from up there in the stands and it feels great to play in this rink.”
On the very vocal Latvian fans at the game.
“We have a lot of Latvian people living in Canada. Our parents, our parent’s friends, everything, everyone that comes here to support us. That helps us.”
On Latvia once again being in the top division.
“We won the (Division 1) tournament last year and we already knew that the tournament was going to be in Montreal and Toronto, so it was kind of a big inspiration for us to win that tournament and get back to the best division in the Under-20’s.”
Advice to his draft-eligible teammates.
“It’s a good tournament because scouts from every NHL team are here. It’s a good tournament to play in and they have to do everything they can because maybe this their last chance to show themselves up for the big teams.”On Jeremy Bracco.
“I know him from the Leafs cause he’s a Leafs’ draft pick too. It’s fun to play against Leafs prospects.”
On the leg injury that has kept him out of action since November 25.
“It feels better, but I’m still taping my ankle and it’s not 100%. Our doctors are trying to do everything so I can play without pain.”
The Latvians are right back at it on Tuesday afternoon as they face off another tough opponent in Russia. The Americans are off until Wednesday when they take on Slovakia.