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Latvia squeezes past Swiss, reaches Olympic quarters for first time

Feb 18, 2014, 2:28 PM EDT

Latvia goaltender Edgars Masalskis snags a shot on goal by Switzerland in the second period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) AP

Switzerland stunned Latvia with its last minute game-winning goal in the Olympic opener. The Latvians would not allow history to repeat itself.

For the first time in the nation’s history, Latvia has advanced to the quarterfinals, courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Switzerland. Latvia will play against Canada on Wednesday.

The entire Latvian team is a remarkable story, but special mention has to go to goaltender Edgars Masalskis. When Latvia got off to an early 2-0 lead, the normally defensive-minded Swiss were forced to put the pressure on, but Masalskis was up to the task, turning aside 32 of 33 shots.

Masalskis has been strong all tournament, which is remarkable when you consider that the goaltender has barely played at all this season. The netminder spent parts of the previous five campaigns in the KHL, but he couldn’t secure a contract in Russia for 2013-14, in part due to his injury history.

Lauris Darzins scored the game-winning goal for Latvia and added an insurance marker with a minute left in the third period. Oskars Bartulis accounted for the Latvian’s other goal.

This is Latvia’s first win of the 2014 Olympics, but the team was able to keep things interesting against Sweden and the Czech Republic, in addition to the narrow opening match loss to the Swiss.

For Switzerland, this will mark its worst finish since the 2002 Winter Games, which is particularly disappointing after the Swiss earned a silver medal in the 2013 World Championship. Their defense was superb in this tournament as they only allowed a single goal in the round robin phase, but they were never able to overcome a deficit.

  1. atwatercrushesokoye - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:34 PM

    Big break for team Canada, the Swiss always play us tough, I expect them to roll Latvia 5-1 tomorrow.

    • thailer35 - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:57 PM

      Tell that to Florida Gulf Coast.

      Let’s go Latvia!

    • kaptaanamerica - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      I hate the lines Babcock is putting together. Tavares should be the 1st line center or even Getzlaf/ Perry line… keeping Crosby as the top center when he isn’t earning his ice is irritating. Not finding a role for Subban when the team can’t score is ridiculous. The guy is a gamebreaker. its a recipe for disaster and if the Canucks lose then Babock/ Yzerman and friends should be banned from ever coming near the national team again… in addition to losing their passports.

      • c9castine - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:09 AM

        earning his ice? you have much to learn about this game if you think he is not earning his ice.

  2. imgoingtowichita - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    What will be enjoyable to watch is the physicality that the Latvians under Nolan bring. They’ll be going up against a pretty big group of Canadians.

  3. newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 18, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    The gap is closing for all the Olympic teams…..its not just 4-6 teams that are “relevant” anymore to win in this tournament.

    As a Canadian, glad to see that the Swiss got knocked out…but Latvia is not as much a sleeper team as many think they are.

    I predict a 6-1 victory for Canada tomorrow.

    • hawksin5 - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:45 PM

      @newjersey ok so from the czech-slovak article u commented saying that the US will only win 4-3..against a team that only beat slovakia by 2 goals (when USA beat slovaks 7-1) BUT you think that Canada will BLOW OUT the latvians who just knocked out a team that lost by only 1 goal to sweden. when the canadians are having trouble scoring in the first place? ok bud

      • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 18, 2014 at 4:53 PM

        Sweden couldn’t solve the Swiss goalie (Hiller) who in my opinion should win the all-star slot for Goalie in the tournament.

        Latvia snuck a few in today early…where the Swiss did not have any depth in scoring (look at their record 3 goals the entire tournament).

        In retrospect to the Slovaka and US game…the US had 1 great period against them. Please re-watch the game before commenting on the “blow-out”. It was a blow-out second period only…Halak had a horrible period, and Budaj was cold when the last 2 goals were scored. (not an excuse for loosing 7-1….but if you watch only 1st and 3rd periods….game was played much closer than the outcome).

        So yes…the US will just squeeze by the Czechs. (IMO)

        As for Latvia, they are a good team, not great. They will put up a fight, however I feel their forwards will be no match for the Canadian defense (size and ability). Likewise their defense will be hard pressed to contain the Canadian forwards. As for goal tending…well you can try and make some comparisons…but you know the outcome.

        Latvia will give 110%…but will not win that game.

      • c9castine - Feb 19, 2014 at 12:12 AM

        newjerseydevils….you are right about what you said happened in the game, but a blow out is a blow out. thats why there is 60 minutes in a game, you have to play it all. and we shredded them in the 2nd and it caused a blowout.

  4. jacketsfan7 - Feb 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    If you think tomorrow will be a blowout you’re crazy , the Latvians are a tough gritty in your face kind of hockey team that will keep going to the final horn , will canada win? 99% sure of it , but it definitely will not be a blowout

  5. buckeye044 - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    Is it a good thing or bad thing that Team Canada will not be tested by an upper-level team until the semi’s?

  6. rabidbillsfan - Feb 18, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    @NJDFPC

    The US beat Slovakia in 1 period. 2 of the 3 Canadians games have been 60+ minutes of battle. I think you need to check yourself before telling others to do the same. Either way, the logic behind comparing teams strengths by who beat who in a certain game to determine a head-to-head outcome is truly flawed. The Colts beat both Seattle and Denver, should they be the true Superbowl champions? Or is it NE, who beat the Colts in the playoffs, but lost to the Broncos? See what I mean… is all I know, is that 60+ minutes of Hockey tomorrow will tell us who is better.

    • newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Feb 18, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      Not once did I say that Canada has not had tough games….almost all games have been 3 period of war.

      All I was implying was the the US is not a grand as some people seem to perceive to be. They beat Slovakia due to 1 really bad period.

      @hawksin5 was trying to compare apples to oranges…Slovakia being beaten by US (refer to above comment)

      I know this is a US site, and no one likes someone saying that the US is going to have a very hard game against Cze.Rep….they all want to hear a 15-0 blowout. But the US have had luck bounce their way.

      The sole reason why they are undefeated is due to a controversial goal (which is still up for debate). Quick was beaten, and can easily be beaten again tomorrow.

      The US did in fact lose to Russia (IMO).

      The fact that I am a Canadian does not change my views on how I percieve that the US will win against Cze.Rep…..but not by a blowout.

      • kaptaanamerica - Feb 18, 2014 at 8:38 PM

        Canadians are generally very smug if not rude… when it comes to the US and especially US hockey.

      • rabidbillsfan - Feb 19, 2014 at 2:12 PM

        Well, here you go. I hope you are enjoying the US blowing out the Czech and Canada is dominating Latvia, yet can’t dig themselves out of a tie. Are you serious, the US lost to Russia? You need a head examination, stat. I find it funny that you state this site is predominately US, however I think the 2 main writers who lifted this site to the level it is now may take offense to that.

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