The olympic ice hockey tournament is now ready for the quarterfinals after all of the qualification round playoff games were completed today. The most shocking result was the fall of Switzerland to a winless Latvian team that they defeated in the preliminary round. The Latvian goaltender, Edgars Masalskis, put up an incredible peformance stopping 32 of 33 Swiss shots. He made some amazing stops including a quick, glove save on an Andres Ambuhl one-timer that was heading for the top corner. Also, with just minutes left in the third period, Masalskis stopped a breakaway attempt from one of Switzerland’s best forwards, Reto Suri.
Jonas Hiller was good, but not good enough. Latvia’s first goal came on a point shot from defenseman Oskars Bartulis on a screened Hiller. They got a second goal from Lauris Darzins shortly after on a power play as Darzins received a cross ice pass and went short side. Hiller didn’t allow a goal the first two games he appeared in these Olympics, but he allowed two in the first period to the Latvians in a span of 2:41. The Swiss got one back in the second period from Martin Pluss, but would not be able to get another by Masalskis. Darzins added an empty-netter to seal the victory for Latvia. This is arguably Latvia’s biggest win in international ice hockey ever. This will be the first time that Latvia will appear in the quarterfinals of the Olympics.
Scoring Breakdown by Period:
- LAT: Bartulis (1), Darzins (2, 3)
- SUI: Pluss (1)
Shot Breakdown by Period
So, Switzerland was poised for an upset bid over Canada in the quarterfinals, but that dream fell apart with a lackluster performance against the Latvians. The Swiss will be heading home earlier than they should’ve. Their lack of offense hurt them, especially when their defense and goaltending was not as sharp as it was in the preliminary round. This is the first time that Latvia will play Canada in the Olympics since the 1930’s and they will need a ridiculous-legendary-miraculous performance to upset Canada to reach the semi’s.
Meanwhile, in other qualification playoff games, Austria was upended by Slovenia, who advances to play Sweden in the quarterfinals. Russia defeated Norway, but it took longer to breakthrough in that game than expected. The Russians move on to face the fourth-seeded Finns in the quarterfinals. Finally, the Czech Republic defeated rival Slovakia to advance to the quarterfinals where they will play USA. The Czechs got out to a 4-0 lead over the Slovaks, but had to hold on in the third period for a 5-3 victory.
Follow me on twitter @ducks_sean!