Latvians disappoint first up

Latvian goalie Edgars Masaļskis blocks this shot, but the two that slipped by gave the victory to the Swiss. Photo by Matthew Manor/HHOF-IIHF Images

MANNHEIM, Germany — Latvia have suffered a disappointing 3-1 loss to Switzerland in their opening game of the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) championship.

Playing in front of a buoyant crowd on Saturday evening, Latvia had fancied their chances against a Swiss team ranked two places above them in the world rankings. Their confidence did not come without reasoning, having completed a strong buildup series, beating teams also ranked above them.

But a slow start saw Latvia playing catch-up hockey throughout with the Swiss scoring one each in the opening two periods, handing them a strong advantage going into the final period.

Latvia’s hopes soared in the 43rd minute when Gints Meija was able to get on the end of a deflection to evade Martin Gerber in goal. The goal gave the players and fans alike the confidence that the equalizer was just around the corner.

However with time against Latvia and the clock counting down panic started to set in as Latvia struggled to get off a genuine shot and in the final seconds trainer Oļegs Znaroks resorted to pulling Edgars Masaļskis from goal to give himself another attacker on the ice.

But as is the case more often than not, the plan failed and Switzerland was able to fire the puck into the back of an empty net to complete the victory, quite comfortably in the end.

Latvia need to recover quickly if they are to put up a genuine fight this evening when they take on Canada in their second game.

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