Team USA Moves On To Quarter Finals

Despite being outshot and outplayed for the majority of the game, the Latvians kept it close. With goals in 16 seconds in the third cut a 4-1 American lead to 4-3 but that was as close as Latvia would get. Eventually dropping the game 6-3. Coming close, as they say, is only good in horseshoes and hand grenades. Alas, close wasn’t enough to push Latvia into a quarter-final spot as the loss on Tuesday. It means the Latvians finish fifth in Group B and ninth overall. Latvia needed a regulation win to give itself a chance at the playoffs.

Dolans Wiffleball 2024
Dolans Wiffleball 2024

The Game

Latvia won bronze one year ago in a thrilling 4-3 overtime win over Team USA. Team USA finishes second in Group B and will now await the result of Finland-Switzerland to see who its quarter-final opponent will be. Against Latvia, Team USA put two pucks in the Latvian net in the first 2:44. First, Brady Tkachuk scored his seventh goal of the tournament when he took a drop pass from Cole Caufield and roofed a shot over the shoulder of Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis at 1:23.

Just over a minute later. Team USA appeared to take a 2-0 lead when Gavin Bradley jammed in a loose puck in the blue paint following four Gudlevskis saves on Michael Eyssimont. However, Latvian head coach Harijs Vitolins challenged the play, and it was determined that Eyssimont interfered with Gudlevskis. As he jammed at the puck several times and hit the goaltender’s pads. So, it remained 1-0 United States.

Gudlevskis was outstanding in the first. Stopping 16 of 18 shots. His best save came off the stick of Johnny Gaudreau. Who found open space to the Latvia goaltender’s right. Took a perfect pass from Brock Nelson but couldn’t beat Gudlevskis with a quick snapshot. The Latvian couldn’t stop them all though. At 13:20, Zach Werenski made the Latvians pay for puck watching in their own zone. He was left alone in front and took a pass from Caufield before Werenski showed great skill in roofing a backhander. To make it 2-0.

Caufield got his first goal and third point of the game early in the second. With the Americans on a powerplay. Matt Boldy passed to an open Caufield in the slot and the Montreal Canadiens star made no mistake with the finish. Snapping a high shot past Gudlevskis.
The Latvians didn’t go away. With Renars Krastenbergs scoring a minute later to make it 3-1. Krastenbergs’ hard wrist shot beat United States goaltender Charlie Lindgren. Playing in his first game at these Worlds after joining the team this week following an injury to Alex Lyons.

More Of The Game

Roberts Bukarts nearly made it 3-2 with about eight minutes to play in the second as his shot, incredibly, hit the left post, rolled right down the goal line and then hit the right post before veering to the corner. Team USA got into penalty trouble with five minutes left in the second, with Nelson and Trevor Zegras going to the box at the same time for a pair of tripping calls, giving Latvia a 5-on-3 powerplay. But Latvia’s misery with the man advantage continued, with Team USA killing off the penalties.

Despite being outshot 32-18 through two, Latvia entered the third only down two goals. Latvia wasn’t ready at puck drop in the third and Boldy scored on a backhander through the five-hole of Gudlevskis just 15 seconds into the frame. The goal gave the Americans plenty of insurance. At least, it appeared that way.

But Eduards Tralmaks scored with 15 minutes left to make it 4-2, on a shot from the side of the net that Lindgren dove to save, getting a piece of the puck but then watching it trickle over the goal line. Sixteen seconds later, the never-quit Latvians made it 4-3 when Roberts Mamcics’ point shot beat Lindgren.

That goal prompted American coach Jon Hynes to take a timeout to calm his players. Caufield got the dagger with nine minutes left in the third with his second goal and fourth point of the game. After grabbing the puck behind the net, Caufield walked out front and ripped a shot top shelf on Gudlevskis’ blocker side to make it 5-3.

With the Latvian net empty, American Joel Farabee was slashed on a breakaway and awarded an automatic goal on the play to conclude the scoring. The United States, which has now qualified for the quarterfinals in 13 consecutive Worlds, will face either Czechia or Switzerland in the playoff round.

Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.