Aivis Kalnins Aivis Kalnins
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The 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing continue and the hockey tournament is well underway. It was now time for Latvia to face one of the tournament favorites - Team Finland.

Latvia entered the game having played Sweden where after going down 0:3 the baltic nation managed to pull back within a goal and even stop the heart of Sweden for a second there when Uvis Balinskis almost reached the equalizer in the final seconds. Harijs Vitolins team entered the game with plenty of changes - Janis Kalnins assumed duties between the pipes, Miks Indrasis drew into the line-up with Dzerins coming out. Arturs Kulda arrived late for the tournament but immediately stepped in for Nauris Sejejs. Still, no Martins Karsums for the Latvian side as he received a positive Covid-19 test result.

The Finn side arrived for the match after steamrolling Slovakia with a score of 6:2 bringing a heavy-laden offensive base that was forefronted by Granlund, Manninen, and Hartikainen. A tough task to overcome for Latvia each game begins with a score of 0:0.

A very eventful and tight match between Latvia and Finland brought Finland a win but only in the final stretch of regulation.

‘’We really wanted to win this one. We fought hard but we missed out by just a little bit. Worst case - we wanted to get that regulation tie. The team had the chances but we were unlucky in some of the key moments. The players gave their everything - it was a harder game than the one against Sweden. We had three centers, Dzerins wasn’t able to play today and then we lost Lauris, we fought but still lost. Everything is still ahead and we are improving, we will be better against Slovakia.’’ Harijs Vitolins said after the match.

Jet fuelled Latvians surprise

The game was off to a really quick start - both teams played at high-speed with Finland dictating things on the ice. Latvians did however keep up and that led to multiple early scoring chances. Sateri had plenty of work to do in the net. Finns had to quickly switch things up as they now were the ones who tried to slow things down. In one of the battles along the boards, Lauris Darzins went awkwardly into the open doors of the bench and had to leave for the dressing room.

liro Pakarinen with the first real chance for Finland at the mid-point of the period - he was left all alone in front of the net but Kalnins was better in that match-up. Things seemed to once again have switched in favor of the lion squad. Latvia quickly grasped the game and Renars Krastenbergs drew a penalty giving Latvia their first shot at a man advantage which was no good for a goal.

The rest of the frame showcases the capabilities of both teams in a very action-packed manner. Finns were more dangerous while Latvia still climbed up the ice to counter. Things ended without a goal 9:17 on the shot clock in favor of the lion squad.

Stalemate broken

The start of the middle frame showed that the game had slowed down and Finland controlled the puck more which also handed them opportunities near the net. A much more tactical game to prevent crucial mistakes for both sides. For a long spread of time, Janis Kalnins had loads of action but he did well in his duties saving Latvia from going down by a goal. Kaspars Daugavins was hurt during a battle with an opponent but after long discussions between the referees, no penalty was awarded.

While Finland created consistent attacks Latvians showed flashes in their attempts to open the scoring, yet Harri Sateri had a rather lonely time in his crease. A dangerous two-on-one occurred for Finns but the puck went wide. Kaspars Daugavins answered with a very dangerous shot but once Sateri got involved there was little to no hope. Pace once again had returned in the game showing entertaining hockey.

The issue for Latvia was their drive - whenever the puck was on their stick they didn’t go for the net, instead looking for a long and positioned offense. Finland finished off the frame by hitting the post as well as forcing Kalnins to make some extra saves but it wasn’t enough - Finland finally struck as Valtteri Kemilainen one-timed the puck into the net with a one-timer. They were not only up on the scoreboard but also in the shot department - 28:15.

Finland grabs a W

Latvian efforts to begin the third led to their second opportunity on power-play - Sami Vatanen was assigned to the sin bin for interference. Shorty after penalty time ended Rodrigo Abols sent the puck past Sateri and tied the game, Renars Krastenbergs with a clutch pass to assure that the puck would reach the goal scorer. The opponents quickly tried to answer with something but Kalnins stood tall in his place.

Having received cold water on their heads Finland woke up and started pressuring which led to the first penalty for Latvia - Gints Meija got called for hooking. With a huge effort, Latvia killed the penalty to keep the score level. Even more - Renars Krastenbergs had a near breakaway while shorthanded but the puck flew past the net.

Latvia was caught with too many men giving them yet another two-minute frame of playing down a man - but another great kill by the maroon-colored team. Finland struck for the second time in this match - a shot from distance somehow found its way in the net from Leo Komarov’s re-direct. The Latvian side activated trying to get back and tie the game - Finland scored one more and after an unsuccessful challenge by Harijs Vitolins the game was over - 1:3 the final score.

‘’If you’re asking what wasn’t enough - it clearly was that we were two goals short. To be honest I don’t know. The most important thing is that the guys continued fighting hard and never gave up. We showed good hockey, Finland did pressure us in our zone but it’s their style. Nothing new for us.’’ Janis Kalnins looked back at the match. ‘’I didn’t see the puck on the first goal, the second time around it was re-directed, on the third goal, the opponent's stick was in my glove, referees checked the video and said that it was a good goal because my glove was outside the crease. Things happen.’’

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