The 10,000-seat arena in Riga wasn’t even sold out, but when the Latvian hockey players scored the decisive goal in overtime of the World Cup match against the Czech Republic, 4:3, it seemed that the roaring fans would demolish the stadium. However, the surprising win hurt the outsider a lot.
Riga (from our reporter) – Even the coach of the Czech national team, Kari Jalonen, admitted that the home team Latvia was better in Monday’s match.
It led 2:1 and 3:2. They won 35:25 on shots, even 13:4 in the first period due to the sleepy start of the Czechs. It deservedly took the first win over the Czech hockey players in history.
“Perfect! There is always a first time for something. The Czechs have always been a tough nut to crack, we lost to them,” recounted 34-year-old veteran Kaspars Daugavinš after the match.
“It’s a shame that we lost one point, but the win is nice and it will help us in the standings,” added the captain of the team that lost the first two duels at the championship – against Canada and Slovakia.
“I have no words,” beamed Oskars Batna, the scorer of the decisive goal, after the surprising victory. “You can hear for yourself what happened – the stadium completely exploded! Of course it’s an amazing feeling.
Of course, the Latvian fans were also celebrating. The way only they do it. Immediately after the match, some went to the Czech embassy, which is about a twenty-minute walk from the stadium, and laid flowers at the gate.
“Thank you for making this day one to remember,” read one note among the flowers.
The local tradition is to comfort opponents after a loss, to ease their pain. For example, Canada also experienced it, which was defeated by Latvian hockey players at the previous championship, also for the first time in history.
“It’s very nice to achieve a historic victory,” Latvian coach Harijs Vitolinš was pleased with the humiliation of the Czechs.
But at the same time, he reminded: “Wins cost you dearly. We have a lot of injured players. When you have adrenaline, you don’t feel pain, but after the match you could see that the guys were putting ice bags on their bodies. That’s how it is with wins.”
For example, striker Rihards Bukarts did not even finish the match. He retired midway through the first period, causing Latvia to drop to three formations.
The defender Uvis Balinskis, who earned a contract in the NHL with Florida after a great season in the extra-league Liberec, finished the game, but with hand pain. He couldn’t even bend her after the match. Practically all the defenders of the home team had bruises after the blocked shots of the Czechs.
Forward Rudolfs Balcers, the only Latvian outfielder who played in the NHL this year, had shoulder pain again.
At first glance, the injury to Andris Džerinš, who was hit by a puck in the face, looked the worst. Coach Vitolinš prayed that the attacker did not have a concussion.
“He played to the end. And he can see the same number of fingers that he’s pointing. So it’s probably going to be some kind of scar,” he noted.
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