Canada struggled to find its offensive footing in a tournament-opening loss to the hosts
RIGA, Latvia – Darcy Kuemper (Saskatoon, Sask./Arizona, NHL) made 15 saves
and Canada’s National Men’s Team held a sizeable edge in shots on goal, but
it dropped a 2-0 decision to Latvia in the opening game for both Friday at
the 2021 IIHF World Championship.
It is the first time in 13 all-time meetings that Canada has come out on
the wrong end against the Latvians, and just the second time since 2006 it
has gone without a goal (Mikko Koskinen blanked the Canadians for Finland
“We arrived here three days ago and had three good practices to get ready for our first game, and I thought it was a very competitive game,” said Canadian head coach Gerard Gallant (Summerside, P.E.I.). [Latvia is] a strong team and they worked hard, and they deserved to win tonight. Unfortunately, we didn’t get many bounces, but there was no underestimating them. We know [Latvia head coach] Bob Hartley from Canada and the way he coaches, and his team played a great game tonight.”
Canada carried the play in the Latvian end for much of the 60 minutes,
outshooting the tournament hosts 38-17, although it had few Grade A scoring
chances against goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks.
The shots favoured Canada 13-4 in the first period, but it was Latvia that
netted the lone goal of the opening frame; Miks Indrasis took a feed from
Ronalds Kenins off the rush and slipped a shot five-hole on Kuemper for a
power-play marker with less than two seconds to go in the first.
Kenins was in on the second Latvian goal as well, letting go a shot from
the right side that was deflected past Kuemper by Oskars Batna near the
nine-minute mark of the second period.
That would be it for offence from both teams as the Latvians clamped down
Jacob Bernard-Docker (Canmore, Alta./Ottawa, NHL) had the best chance for
the Canadians late in the second stanza, but his hard wrist shot got a
piece of Kivlenieks’ shoulder and stayed out.
Canada pushed to get on the board in the third, helped by a pair of
power-play opportunities, but couldn’t solve Kivlenieks.
“I think we generated a lot of chances, but this is first time on the larger ice for some of our guys and that can really make a difference,” Canadian forward Brandon Pirri (Toronto, Ont./Chicago, NHL) said post-game. “As the game went on, we were able to generate more quality scoring chances. We are still finding our game as a team, but there are some good takeaways from tonight.”
Kuemper wasn’t busy but was good when called upon, including a sprawling left-pad
stop off Rodrigo Abols to keep the deficit at two in the final frame.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 21, 2021
The game included a little bit of history as Owen Power (Mississauga,
Ont./University of Michigan, Big Ten) became the youngest Canadian to ever
play in the tournament at 18 years, six months. The defenceman passed Paul
Kariya, who was 16 days older when he debuted in 1993.
Canada will have a day off from game action before facing the United States
on Sunday (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT).