Latvia squeezes past Swiss, reaches Olympic quarters for first time

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Switzerland stunned Latvia with its last minute game-winning goal in the Olympic opener. The Latvians would not allow history to repeat itself.

For the first time in the nation’s history, Latvia has advanced to the quarterfinals, courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Switzerland. Latvia will play against Canada on Wednesday.

The entire Latvian team is a remarkable story, but special mention has to go to goaltender Edgars Masalskis. When Latvia got off to an early 2-0 lead, the normally defensive-minded Swiss were forced to put the pressure on, but Masalskis was up to the task, turning aside 32 of 33 shots.

Masalskis has been strong all tournament, which is remarkable when you consider that the goaltender has barely played at all this season. The netminder spent parts of the previous five campaigns in the KHL, but he couldn’t secure a contract in Russia for 2013-14, in part due to his injury history.

Lauris Darzins scored the game-winning goal for Latvia and added an insurance marker with a minute left in the third period. Oskars Bartulis accounted for the Latvian’s other goal.

This is Latvia’s first win of the 2014 Olympics, but the team was able to keep things interesting against Sweden and the Czech Republic, in addition to the narrow opening match loss to the Swiss.

For Switzerland, this will mark its worst finish since the 2002 Winter Games, which is particularly disappointing after the Swiss earned a silver medal in the 2013 World Championship. Their defense was superb in this tournament as they only allowed a single goal in the round robin phase, but they were never able to overcome a deficit.