Just over a year after Latvia stunned Switzerland at the 2014 Olympics, Edgars Masalskis made 35 saves to help his team do it once again after a 2-1 victory on Wednesday.
Kristers Gudlevskis may be the Latvian netminder the entire world knows, but Edgars Masaļskis is still the number one goalie in the country. With no Gudlevskis to challenge for the starting spot due to the NHL playoffs, Masaļskis is currently participating in his 14th World Championship tournament, an event that seems him almost always becoming one of the top players for the Latvians. His tournament this year has been a rough one throughout, having struggled in meetings against the Czech Republic and Sweden. That didn’t stop him from having a solid first period, though, His 12 saves were rather impressive, as Damien Brunner, Roman Josi and Dennis Hollenstein all had solid chances stopped early on.
The games on Tuesday featured very little scoring, including a 1-0 victory by the Swiss over Germany. Today, the Latvians decided they didn’t want to wait until the third period to record a goal. Desperately looking for their first victory of the tournament, Andris Dzerins does something very few teams could do yesterday and scores in the second period. Four minutes into the frame, Dzerins came in on a 2-on-1 and blew a beauty wrister past Berra over the glove, giving his team the elusive 1-0 lead.
After two periods of play, it was still clear that Masalskis was the star. The Latvian netminder had 23 saves after 40 minutes, with many of them considered to be game-saving stops. The best one of the night could end up being one of the best saves of the tournament, as a shot by Kevin Fiala in front was absolutely robbed by Masalskis, who got in just in time to make an incredible diving glove save on the power-play.
The Swiss would finally beat the Latvian goaltending star in the final minute of play. Unrelated to famous flop Justin Bieber, Mathias Bieber was able to force the game into overtime after jamming the puck in for the 1-1 goal. Overtime wasn’t exactly kind to them, however, as Lauris Dārziņš and Kaspars Daugaviņš made some slick passes in front of the net before Daugaviņš tapped in the goal for the 2-1 victory, a surprising one at that.
Latvia’s victory was very important in the standings, as it now means they’re in the medal hunt thanks to a close Group A standings right now. Fortunately for them, they still have to take on Germany, Austria and France before the end of the tournament, all beatable teams trying to fight to avoid relegation. For Switzerland, who currently sit safely in third, they’ll still have to take on Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic before the quarter-final cut-off a week from now.
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