Latvia’s ice hockey team qualifies for Olympics

Latvia’s ice hockey team, which in the past few days won all three of its qualification round games in Rīga, will be one of 12 squads competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Latvia defeated Hungary, Ukraine and Italy to earn the coveted spot. The Olympics are scheduled to start Feb. 12, 2010. Latvia will face Russia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in preliminary round games, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation.

The Latvians won 4-1 over Italy on Feb. 8 in a qualification game played in Arēna Rīga, according to a game summary reported by the IIHF.

The Latvians got on the scoreboard first. Ģirts Ankipāns, with an assist from Jānis Sprukts, scored at 8 minutes 48 seconds into the first period. At 10:01, Mārtiņš Cipulis scored on a power play, aided by Kristaps Sotnieks and Aigars Cipruss.

Mārtiņš Karsums made it 3-0 on a short-handed goal at 14:25 into the second period. He was assisted by Sprukts.

Fifteen seconds into the final period, Italy’s Giulio Scandella scored on a power play with help from Christian Borgatello. The Latvians answered the effort at 2:59 when Lauris Dārziņš, helped by Sprukts and Ankipāns, made the final score 4-1.

Latvia’s goalkeeper Sergejs Naumovs stopped 30 of Italy’s 31 shots on goal, while Italy’s Thomas Tragust was kept busy trying to stop 46 Latvian shots, 42 of them successfully.

In a Feb. 5 game in Rīga, Latvia beat Hungary 7-3 and, the following day, skated past Ukraine 4-2.

During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Latvia’s best showing was a surprise 3-3 tie with the United States. However, the team lost all other games and ended up last in the field of 12. Sweden won the gold medal.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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