Latvia win, Patna OT hero

Oskars Patna was the hero, rebounding with 44 seconds left in overtime to give Latvia its first win at the 2023 IIHF World Championship and its first win over Czechia in any world championship.

Janis Jakes drove the puck into the zone and fired a shot that was stopped by Simon Hrubek, but the Czech goalie went down and out when Patna pounced on the rebound, sending most of the crowd inside the Arena Riga home happy.

„No words,” an exhausted Patna said later. „You can hear what happened – the building exploded! Obviously, it was an amazing feeling.”

It was a back-and-forth game of hockey with the Czech Republic leading 1-0 at the end of overtime before the Czechs responded twice with Latvia 2-1 and 3-2. Mandatory overtime. Latvia beat Czech Republic 35-25.

„We should have won the last game as well, but we went out and had a great start today,” said Latvian forward Rudolphs Balcers. „We knew we could beat them. It was unfortunate for us not to get the extra point when they scored at the end, but it’s good to get the win.

The Latvians got off to a fast start, spurred on by a spirited home crowd, but it was Czechia who opened the scoring against the run of play. After a battle with the boards in the Latvian zone in the ninth minute, Ontrej Peranek brought the puck in and fed David Nemecek, who waited for a crowd to form in front of Siloves, who fired a high, blocker-side shot.

Despite being outshot 13-4 in the opening period, the Czechs almost went up 2-0 in the period when David Tomasek fired a shot off the near post.

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At the start of the second period, two quick Latvian attacks gave the hosts the lead and re-energized the Arena Riga.

Following some nifty stickhandling by Oscar Sibulskis along the boards, Reharts allowed a shot from the Bukartz blueline that eluded everyone, including goaltender Simon Hrubek. Sixty-two seconds later, an extended pass from Ralfs Freibergs found Martins Dzierkels flying full down the right wing, and he beat Hrubek with a quick shot to the glove side.

„We didn’t play well today,” Czech defender Ronald Knott said. “We have to improve our effort and prepare for the next game. We need a few more points. Latvians started well and put pressure on us, we couldn’t take our game to another level and that’s why we lost.

Latvia continued to press on, but the Czechs started to level the score towards the middle of the game. Just short of midway through the match, with sustained pressure in the Latvian zone for the first time, Roman Cervenka made a cross-seam pass to Dominik Kubalik, who beat Siloves in the five-hole.

The Czechs almost regained the lead on the power play late in the middle frame. Jiri Cernoch appeared to have plenty of net to shoot at when a rebound came in just outside the crease, but Siloves’ outstretched bat and stick was enough to tap it wide of the post.

Latvia went up 3-2 at the 14:38 mark. Denis Smirnovs won a faceoff in the offensive zone, Toms Andersen fed back to the point and Oscar Sibulskis blasted it in – a shot that saw the skate of a Czech defender and Hrubek had no time to react.

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A healthy group of Czech fans in the building tried to squeeze another goal out of their team and as the third period went on, the Czechs increased the attacking pressure. With just over three minutes to play, the break came. Cervenka found Michal Kempny sliding from the point to the back door, leaving Siloves to dive in vain and the puck waved off the net.

Overtime was wild as each team registered four shots on goal. In one particularly dramatic display, Siloves made a brilliant blocker when Vladimir Sobotka was level, and then the Latvians quickly went back the other way, with Hrubek robbing Miks Indrasis at the other end. But the game stayed alive, setting the stage for Patna’s heroics.

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