2021 ice hockey World Championship Riga, Latvia
I haven't written anything in years so I wanted to post something meaningful. Great news are that IIHF World Championship in hockey is returning after 2020 World Championship was canceled. But all 2021 ice hockey World Championships (men, U20, U18) were held only in top divisions while lower division championships like in Division 1a are missing the second straight year. My condolences.
2021 IIHF World Championship in hockey is coming to Riga, Latvia which will be a second top division tournament held in Latvia and it looks like this could be the first tournament in history without any single spectator in the arena. Which is a huge disappointment nevertheless if the spectators are allowed to attend in middle or at the last phase of tournament. That is a great disappointment and the bitterness will follow for many years to come.
The tournament structure has stayed the same since 2012 with 16 teams in 2 groups with 7 games each, 4 best group teams qualifies for quarterfinals but this year no team will be relegated to Division 1a. The opening night game against Canada is just 3 days away and this year the timing to compete and maybe overcome Canadians in World Championships couldn't be better and the best is kept for last game against Germany which could be critical for qualifying for quarterfinals but team Latvia has to get that far for the start. So in 12 days team Latvia will play 7 games and two of those will be back-to-back games, first pair will be Canada and Kazakhstan, second one USA and Norway. I have compiled a few statistics to see what we will play against and previous results.
Results for team Latvia in top division ice hockey World Championships since 1997:
Results in last four World Championships:
Despite the fact that it seems there are countless solid goalies who could play I am not happy that the last three tournament starter Elvis Merzļikins and second man Kristers Gudļevskis in last two championships are missing the action. The next guys Jānis Kalniņš and Ivars Punnenovs have both combined one show in 2017 World Championship game against Russia in 0:5 loss. Where Punnenovs started in net had 4 goals against in 53 minutes and Kalniņs relieved Punnenovs in 3rd had 1 goal against in 7 minutes. Well don't get me wrong! I am Jānis Kalniņš great admirer and I was saddened after 2020 tournament was cancelled because Kalniņš had his best season in career when he had 34 victories and 9 losses in 45 starts. He is good but I am a bit concerned. Do the goalies in back-to-back situations will be Kivlenieks vs Canada - Kalniņš vs Kazakhstan, Kivlenieks vs USA - Kalniņš vs Norway?
The center position for team Latvia has been a critical for a lot of years and this year it wouldn't be any different. While there are players who can play in the center position the most important part of the true center position players are face-offs. Basically if you're loosing the face-offs you can't control the game.
The Great Expectations
What is the recipe for the victory? I could post an infinite charts and numbers to find out what is the recipe of winning the tournament but the thing is that it's very short tournament where any mistake counts and any opportunity and chance untapped will cost greatly.
Any world championship tournament differs from each other and this will differ with not so great opposing team rosters but this time it doesn't feel like a great advantage because all teams are missing critical game action and the line chemistry will be low for most of the teams if not all.
The best recipe for success no matter if the team plays offensive or defensive game is to score goals, neutralize opponent's offense and to catch the puck and the team who will make less mistakes will win the game. It's basic and easy so let's stick to that.