Team captain Kaspars Daugavins admitted that after reaching the semi-finals, the Latvian hockey team had believed for years that they could beat the quarter-final hurdle of the world championship, but there was always something missing.
On Thursday, Latvia’s hockey team advanced to the semi-finals of the world championship for the first time in its history, beating Sweden 3-1 in the quarterfinals at Arena Riga.
“For years we believed we could do it, but something was always missing,” said Daugavins, who participated in the world championship for the 11th time.
“But we believed, we worked hard, we kept moving forward and it paid off with the character of the team. Now we’re going step by step and we’ll see what happens.”
The 35-year-old Daugavins scored three goals and provided three assists in eight games in this tournament. The start of the tournament was difficult, as there were two losses at the beginning of the championship. There was nowhere to retreat, it was necessary to start winning.
“We were against the wall at home. We owe it to the fans who bought tickets, spent a lot of money and came to watch us. We fought in strokes every stroke and period – and here we are.”
With 40 performance points (19+21), Daugavins surpassed Lauri Dārziņa (24+16), the record holder of the Latvian national team in the history of the elite division of the world championship.
Two more matches are guaranteed in the tournament – semi-finals and the fight for medals. In these matches, Daugavins has the opportunity to become the most prolific player in Latvia’s history of world championships in the elite group.
The captain of the team praised the goalkeeper Artūrs Šilov, who allowed an average of two pucks in eight matches of the tournament and saved 92.6% of the opponents’ shots.
“It’s clear that Arthur is a big part of our team’s success. He saves us when we make mistakes, but we manage to limit them. The mistakes are getting less and less and that gives us a chance.”
The Latvian national team will play their semi-final match in Tampere, Finland on Saturday (starting at 14:20). Canada will face Canada, which Latvia lost in the first match of the tournament.
Canada defeated Finland, the tournament’s host and last year’s World Championship winner, in the quarterfinals.
On the other hand, USA and Germany hockey players will fight in the second semi-final. The medal games will be played on Sunday.