Latvia hoping for more
Latvia hoping for more
New coach, new players...new results?
The last time it qualified for the playoff round was 2009, and since then it has flirted with relegation more than it has shown improvement.
The 35-year-old veteran of the crease is Edgars Masalskis, back for another go. He has been with the team at every major event since 2002, although he didn’t play in 2002, 2003, or 2006. Nevertheless, his 44 games is just behind legend Arturs Irbe (51). Also expected to see some action are Janis Kalnins and Ervins Mustukovs.
Back for his ninth straight event (Worlds and Olympics) is Kristaps Sotnieks, whose steadying influence on the blue line will be vital for the team’s success. Krisjanis Redlihs, who first played at the 2002 Worlds, will also be a veteran anchor for the team. One curious addition to the team will be Aleksandrs Jerofejevs. He played every Worlds between 2006 and 2010 and nothing since. After a five-year absence, can he be a difference-maker?
Familiar names populate the landscape of the offence for Latvia. From Martins Cipulis to Janis Sprukts and Kaspars Daugavins, there are many players with years of international experience. But scoring goals ahs always been a problem, and the team must get something from the newcomers. One such player is Nikita Jevpalovs, a 20-year-old who has played for the last three years with the beautifully-named Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Quebec junior. He has improved every year and just might add spark to the Latvian offence. Although he is 25 years old, Gunars Skvorcovs will be making his senior appearance, while the team’s youngest player, 19-year-old Rodrigo Abols, will be making his senior debut after playing in the U20 earlier this year.Continue reading
Aleksandrs Belavskis is a 51-year-old former player with the Latvian national team and has inherited the coach’s job from Ted Nolan, who returned to the NHL for the 2014-15 season after three years in Latvia. As a player, Belavskis appeared in the 2002 Olympics and six straight World Championships between 1997 and 2002. He was a skilled forward during his day, but whether he can bring goals to the team as a coach is another story. Time will tell.
In a very tough Group A, Latvia can aim no higher than fourth place, but the competition in the bottom half of the group is still fierce. In all likelihood the team will be in tough for a 5-7 placing with Austria, France, and Germany.
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