It took Germany six attempts to win their first game of the 2013 World Junior Championships but they certainly picked the right time to do it. Led by two goals from Leon Draisaitl and 23 saves by Marvin Cupper, the Germans sent Latvia out of the WJC for at least a year with a 5-2 victory.
Germany entered the game with one point in the tournament from their overtime loss to Slovakia during pool play. Latvia entered with 0 points compiled from any of their five previous games. Each team was fairly distant from Finland and Slovakia, who had already locked up their trip to the 2014 WJC with 6 and 5 points.
In what was effectively an elimination game for both teams, Latvia jumped on the board at 15:25 in the first period courtesy of a Lauris Rancevs goal. Germany trailed 1-0 after one despite out-shooting Latvia 10-9 in the first.
The momentum shifted dramatically in the second as Germany score three unanswered goals to take a two-goal lead. Tobias Rieder put one home just 6 seconds into the period to tie it before Draisaitl and Christian Kretschmann scored goals of their own at 10:30 and 16:04. Germany drastically out-shot Latvia in the period 22-6.
Germany scored two more in the third from Draisaitl at 5:36 and Sebastian Uvira at 15:28 before Latvia was able to answer with one of their own with Arturs Kuzmenkovs’ goal at 18:32. Latvia actually out-shot Germany in the third 12-8 but was out-shot 40-27 for the game thanks to Germany’s strong second period.
The victory saves Germany from being relegated from the 2014 WJC while Latvia cannot take part in next year’s tournament.
While this may have not been a banner year for German hockey, they certainly have reason for optimism due to the youth of their squad. A young, inexperienced 2013 squad will be much improved by next winter as they are only losing a few players and will have stars such as Cupper and Draisaitl returning in 2014.
While I’m not quite apt to predicting they will win it all next year or anything crazy like that, I do see you will see a much improved German team next winter. A run into the playoff bracket would not surprise me one bit with a goalie like Cupper.
For the 9th place finishing 2013 German team, this is Taylor Gaines signing out. Be sure to stay tuned to HOHM for updates and analysis of the gold-medal match Saturday morning at 8 AM Eastern Time between Sweden and USA.