National ice hockey team advances to quarter finals

  • 2009-05-07
  • By Monika Hanley

FIRE ON ICE: Fans are thrilled with Latvia's placement, which is one of the best the team has had since it began competing in the tournament.

RIGA - Latvia has qualified for the quarter-finals of the International Ice Hockey World Championship following a strong performance in the pool matches in which the team beat a number of major world players.
The Latvian team, despite a loss to the U.S. and Russia teams, has performed better than expected throughout the tournament and is ranked number seven of the eight teams poised for the quarter-finals.

After a loss to Team USA, Latvia managed an exciting 3-2 victory against Sweden in a shootout following a scoreless overtime period. It was the first win for Latvia against Sweden in hockey history. 
Having failed to beat Sweden 11 previous times, the win at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Bern, Switzerland was all the more sweet for players and fans.
"I'm just happy, I really wanted to win this game," said Latvian coach Olegs Znaroks. "Every victory means happiness."

From the Swedish side however, not all was so jubilant.
"I feel sad, Latvia is a team that we were supposed to beat," Swedish player Magnus Juhanson told Swedish press.
Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter called it an historic victory for Latvia.
Sweden trainer Bengt-Oke Gustavson told reporters that "we are all unsatisfied with what we did in this game."    

Latvia lost to the U.S. and Russia in pool play, but was able to defeat Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and France. Latvia advanced to the quarter final round on points after Switzerland failed to defeat the United States in regulation time.


While Latvian hockey fans are well known for their loud singing and drumming, this year it seems there are fewer fans attending games.
"Compared to previous years, interest of Latvian fans to attend the games live has substantially decreased. This is especially true regarding trips to the World Championships organized by travel agencies," said Kerija Paukina of the Organization of Latvian fans. 

"Many have decided to use private transportation to the tournament and only attend separate games," she said.
Despite the 35 lat tickets for each game, an estimated 1,000 fans will remain in Switzerland to cheer on the Latvian team.


Latvian goalie Edgars Masalskis has gained international recognition for his ironclad performance in the tournament. The phrase "you got Masalski-ed" could be found in press across the globe after the historic win against Sweden.

Latvia also defeated the Swiss team, which is hosting the event, in an overtime shoot out.
Latvia will play in the third game of the quarter-finals against Canada, a game that critics and bookies alike are calling a long shot for the underdog Latvian team.
Betting one lat on Canada to win would result in a five santim profit, while Latvia winning would garner a 22 lat profit.

The winner of the game will play either Sweden or the Czech Republic in the semifinals.
Latvia previously made the quarterfinals in 2004, but then lost to Sweden and failed to advance to the next round.
In the 2008 World Championships, Latvia placed 11th 's Latvia's best achievement to date is seventh place at the 1997 World Championship in Finland and the 2004 Championship in the Czech Republic.

Latvia will go on to play Canada on May 7, at 5:15 p.m. Latvian time.