Latvian ice hockey player Dans Locmelis (R) scores a goal during the World Cup quarterfinal match against Sweden, May 25, 2023.
Riga – Latvia's ice hockey players advanced to the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time in their history. The players of coach Harijs Vitolinš unexpectedly beat Sweden 3:1 in the quarter-finals on home ice in Riga. The Baltic country, which defeated the Czech Republic for the first time in the group, will challenge Canada in Saturday's battle for the final. The duel will take place in Tampere.
Photo gallery: Hockey World Cup 2023
Former Zlín striker Rihards Bukarts assisted on all of Latvia's goals today. Miks Indrašis and Janis Jaks scored the goal and the assist. The Latvians scored two decisive goals in the third period, which the teams entered at 1:1. The Swedes last made it to the top four at the World Cup in 2019.
Latvia, buoyed by a raucous crowd, took the lead in the 13th minute. Cibulskis shot wide, but Rihards Bukarts took charge of the puck, charged in front of the goal and Ločmelis opened the scoring. “Tre kronor” equalized in the middle of the match. Raymond created space for Liljegren, who beat Šilovs with a shot under the crossbar.
In the 37th minute, Dzierkals was suspended for five minutes plus until the end of the match for a jab with the end of the stick, but the Swedes did not take advantage of the long numerical advantage. At the end of the third period, Grundström got the puck into the net with a high stick, and the referees called off the goal after watching repeated shots.
Indrašis restored the lead to the Latvians in the 46th minute. The 32-year-old striker took the puck from Rihards Bukarts, passed it between Pär Lindholm's legs and fired over Lars Johansson's rebound to delight the crowd in Riga for the second time.
In the 54th minute, Latvia added insurance when Jaks' shot from the blue fell to the Swedish goalkeeper between the concretes. In the end, the favorite risked a game without a goalkeeper, but did not prevent a surprising elimination.
Ice Hockey World Championship – quarter-finals (Riga):
Sweden – Latvia 1:3 (0:1, 1:0, 0:2)
Goals and assists: 30. Liljegren (Raymond, A. Lindholm) – 13. Ločmelis (Rihards Bukarts, Cibulskis), 46. Indrašis (Rihards Bukarts, Jaks), 54. Jaks (Indrašis, Rihards Bukarts). Referees: Kaukokari (Fin.), MacFarlane – Davis (both USA), Mackey (Can.). Exclusion: 2:4, plus M. Dzierkals (Lot.) 5 min and until the end of the match. Usage: 0:1. Spectators: 9200.
Sweden: Lars Johansson – Liljegren, Tömmernes, Pudas, A. Lindholm, L. Bengtsson, Nemeth, Folin – Raymond, P. Lindholm, Carlsson – Zetterlund, O. Lindberg, Grundström – A. Nylander, Linus Johansson, Everberg – Silfverberg, J. de la Rose, M. Sörensen – Berggren. Coach: Hallam.
Latvia: Šilovs – Balinskis, Zile, Rubins, Jaks, Čukste, Freibergs, Cibulskis, Golovkovs – Daugavinš, Abols, Balcers – M. Dzierkals, Batna, Roberts Bukarts – Krastenbergs, Smirnovs, Andersons – Indrašis, Ločmelis, Rihards Bukarts. Coach: Vitolinš.