Olympics-Ice hockey-Czech Republic hold off Latvia in Sochi

Reuters

* Jakub Voracek's second-period goal holds up as game winner

* Latvia winless against Czechs in 10 international meetings (Adds quotes and details)

By Frank Pingue

SOCHI, Russia, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic beat Latvia 4-2 in the men's ice hockey tournament at the Sochi Games on Friday to restore their hopes of earning top spot in their group before the quarter-finals.

While the routine win helped erase a tournament-opening loss to Sweden, evergreen Czech forward Jaromir Jagr felt it was too soon to assess his team's chances in the 12-team tournament.

"We have to wait for a tougher game," Jagr, who turns 42 on Saturday, told reporters after scoring a goal in the victory. "They are a pretty good team but you felt from the first minute we got the game under control."

The Czechs opened the scoring midway through the first period when a Martin Erat slapshot from near the top of the faceoff circles went through the Latvian goalie's legs.

Latvia drew even with a powerplay goal by Janis Sprukts but Jagr, playing in his fifth Olympic Games, put the Czechs back in front with a wrist shot that snuck into the side of the Latvian net with 31 seconds left in the opening period.

The determined Latvia squad came out strongly in the second period and wasted little time finding the equaliser when Herberts Vasiljevs scored less three minutes into the frame.

Jakub Voracek's go-ahead goal near the midway mark of the second period, when he reached his stick out with one hand to redirect a shot from Zbynek Michalek into the Latvia net, held up as the game winner.

The win was the first of the three-game preliminary round for a Czech team looking to return to the Olympic podium for the first time since winning the bronze medal at the 2006 Games.

Latvia entered the game seeking their first win over the Czech Republic in 10 international meetings but were unable to gain any momentum and were outshot 39-20.

The loss was the second in a row for Latvia after opening the tournament with a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat by Switzerland on Wednesday where they conceded the game-winning goal with eight seconds to go.

"Definitely yesterday you could see it in the locker room the guys were kind of down on themselves," said Latvian forward Zemgus Girgensons.

"It's not easy to bounce back from things like that but I think we handled it pretty well and we could've done a little bit better."

Both teams conclude Group C play on Saturday with the Czechs facing Switzerland and Latvia playing Sweden. (Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Clare Lovell)

View Comments (0)