What an incredible performance from 21 year old goaltending sensation Kristers Gudlevskis. This is what makes the Olympics what they are; anything can and more often then not will happen. The young netminder put up over 50 saves during the quarterfinal match-up against Team Canada and almost turned Latvia into a Cinderella story.
Gudlevskis hails from a town called Aizkraukle which holds a population of just over 8,000. In a country that only has 7 ice rinks to it’s name, finding one was almost impossible. However, he carried on his passion and ended up making a few dents in the Latvian national league and also suited up for 2 games with Dinamo Riga of the KHL.
The North American shores came calling as he became the highest ranking Latvian goaltender to get drafted into the NHL. He’s since making his name and way around the AHL as he started his career with a shutout in his very first game.
Gudlevkis might be a diamond in the rough. The thing North American fans have to remember is every single team in tournaments like these are now showing how much competitive they’re becoming. The rest of the world seems to finally be catching up to play with the likes of Team Canada and Team USA. Remember, the Olympics, World Cup, and international competitions is like the Stanley Cup for these countries. Goaltending is their biggest development.
At the same time, teams like Team Canada and USA (I’m not saying they’re doing this), can’t come in cocky and take anyone for granted. Not just the players but fans alike. In International competition, anything can happen. This isn’t the National Hockey League where you can ride a losing streak for a while and come back out on top. Hell, in the 60’s and 70’s, one game could mean retraction of the whole hockey program for your country.
With Team Canada, these NHL players are not used to going a few games without points. They lead their own teams night in and night out. Confidence can play a lot in how a team performs.
So while Latvia put the brakes on a Team Canada walk through, it shouldn’t come as no surprise. These teams are only going to get better as time goes on.
And hey, Ric Flair said it best….
“To be the man, you gotta beat the man.”