MINSK, Belarus – Four U.S. players scored goals and the U.S rallied to tie the game three times, but the U.S. Men's National Team fell to Latvia, 6-5, in the preliminary round of the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship here today.
“Tonight was disappointing because we fought back a couple times to get into the game and then we made some mistakes that cost us the game,” said Peter Laviolette, head coach of the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team. “We have a big game coming up tomorrow night against Kazakhstan, so we’ll regroup and be ready.”
Latvia scored the game’s first goal at 15:39 of the opening frame, but Craig Smith (Madison, Wis./University of Wisconsin/Nashville Predators) found the back of the net one minute later to tie the game at 1-1. After Latvia chipped the puck out to center, Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka, Minn./University of Wisconsin/Toronto Maple Leafs) made a quick transition pass to Smith, springing him cleanly into the offensive zone. Smith worked his way to the top of the right circle and fired a shot past Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis’ blocker.
The Latvians converted on a rebound at 18:57 of the first period and then scored a power-play marker at 8:08 of the second stanza to build a 3-1 advantage. Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn./University of North Dakota/N.Y. Islanders) and Tyler Johnson (Spokane, Wash./Tampa Bay Lightning) netted back-to-back power-play goals to bring the U.S. back to even.
Seth Jones (Plano, Texas/Nashville Predators) started the first play when he fed Nelson with a pass at the left dot. Nelson took the puck, turned towards the net and flipped a backhander over Gudlevskis’ shoulder at 8:57 to make it 3-2. Then, just 1:03 later, Johnson parked at the side of the net and knocked a rebound in to knot the score at 3-3. Smith and Jacob Trouba (Rochester, Mich./University of Michigan/Winnipeg Jets) were credited with the assists on the play.
Latvia took a 4-3 lead with 8:35 remaining in regulation when Kaspars Daugavins beat U.S. goaltender Tim Thomas (Flint, Mich./University of Vermont/Dallas Stars) with a shot from the point, but Kevin Hayes (Dorchester, Mass./Boston College) answered quickly when he tipped a Jones shot just inside the far post.
The Latvians grabbed the lead for good with 5:23 left in the third period on a goal during a delayed penalty. They made it 6-4 on a breakaway with 2:21 to play in the contest.
Nelson cut the Latvia lead to 6-5 with 1:30 remaining in regulation when he redirected a Johnny Gaudreau (Carneys Point, N.J./Boston College/Calgary Flames) pass into the net, but the U.S. couldn't knot the score despite a late push.
The U.S. Men’s National Team (2-0-0-2) continues preliminary-round play tomorrow (May 16) at 9:45 a.m. ET against Kazakhstan. The game will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network.