After the three year struggle to earn a promotion to play in U20 Elite WJC division Latvian men's national under 20 ice hockey team (Latvian U20) has been relegated again in 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Junior Championships (U20 WJC). The biggest upset isn't in the fact that Latvian U20 has been relegated to play in a Div. I next season but the in fact that Latvian hockey fans hoped for something better. Should we need to blame bad luck or this was Latvian U20 best?
The good - Krastenbergs and Mitens
Renars Krastenbergs lead the Latvian U18 team in 2016 U18 WJC with 2+6 in 7 games played and Krastenbergs is leading this year Latvian U20 team with 3+1 in 6 games played and only 7 players scored more than 3 goals, 10 players scored 3. Krastenbergs debut season in OHL’s Oshawa Generals isn’t very productive (3+7 in 31 games played) and he has avoided all NHL Draft rankings so far but his performance in 2017 U20 WJC definitely is noted.
Only two Latvian U20 players has scored more than 3 goals in Elite U20 WJC:
The bad - on paper this was one of the best rosters
Latvian U20 has participated in 6 Elite division U20 WJC’s - 2006, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2017. Let’s take a look at the past U20 WJC rosters:
The Ugly - right tournament format
You can tell that we were unlucky to play against Finnish U20 team in relegation round, but they were there for objective reasons - they played bad and paid for it by playing in relegation round. Would it be easier to play against Danish U20, Swiss U20 I doubt that because it's easy to blame bad luck. Terrible shot efficiency with so weak power play and player discipline with so terrible penalty kill was the ugliest thing in this tournament and we paid high price for them.
The U20 WJC tournament format has changed in the past 10 years, In 2006 U20 WJC group winners automatically qualified to semifinals, 2nd and 3rd place teams played in quarterfinals, 4th and 5th placed teams played in relegation round where two teams were relegated, in 2012 it was the same, but only 1 team was relegated. Since 2014 U20 WJC Top 4 group teams advances to quarterfinals and 5th placed teams have to play a relegation round till 2 victories.
In 2006 U20 WJC to save in relegation round a team must've won at least 2 games against 3 opponents and it seems that nothing has changed, the same relegation round and to save in relegation round you have to win 2 games, but this time against one opponent and it seems way tougher than it looks. The only time 3 games in this relegation format was played only one time so far. It happened in the first one of this type of relegation round in 2014 U20 WJC between Germany U20 and Norway U20.
Latvian U20 in U20 Elite WJC 36 games played has won only 5 games, scored 81 goals and let 225 goals against. I have compiled statistics from all 6 for you to compare.
All games played in Elite U20 WJC:
Powerplay and penalty kill:
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