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2010 Vancouver Olympics: Latvia Gives Czech Republic a Run for Their Money

Rangers TribuneContributor IFebruary 20, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 19:  Jaromir Jagr #68 of Czech Republic keeps the puck away from Kristaps Sotnieks #11 of Latvia during the ice hockey men's preliminary game between Czech Republic and Latvia on day 8 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 19, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Team Czech Republic gained their second consecutive win in the tournament tonight, but it did not come easily, with the Latvians giving them a run for their money.

Early on, it seemed as if the Czechs were going to run away with the game in the first period, but the goals slowed down for them and Latvia almost inched their way back.

They may have lost, but the fans there were fantastic and had the times of their lives.

Boston Bruins forward David Krejci got things started with a smooth move to the net and a goal through the five hole of Latvia goaltender Ervins Mustokovs. Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens then deflected one home to give the Czechs a 2-0 lead.

It was then the Great Sixty-Eight, Jaromir Jagr, snapped a wristshot into the net to cap the period off with the score being 3-0. Shots in that period were 16-4 in favor of the Czech Republic.

On the power play early in the second, Patrick Elias of the Devils sneaked a pass to a wide-open Tomas Kaberle, who one-timed the feed into the back of the net, making it 4-0.

The Latvians fought back, however, as they would first score on the breakaway, and then later register a powerplay tally. At that point, the arena was echoing with “LAT-VIA” chants coming from all directions. It was truly unbelievable.

Those chants went on all through the third period. They were ignited by odd-man rushes, solid saves, and even strong defensive plays.

Unfortunately their boys would come up short, and that sank in right as Elias’ lofter found the empty net. Still, a great effort by Team Latvia in this game tonight. I don’t think the Czechs were expecting such an effort from their opponents.

What the past two days have told us is that there is no longer a favorite team in this tournament. Switzerland nearly beat Canada, Slovakia upset Russia, Belarus almost found a way to edge Sweden, and now Latvia contended with the Czech Republic.

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It is raising eyebrows and gaining the attention of many as it should. Next week’s medal rounds will certainly be entertaining based on what we saw over the past few days.

Also, there is no doubt it my mind that Jaromir Jagr can still play in the National Hockey League and still put up points. He could not be controlled tonight and was all over the place.

He was strong on the puck, he had some excellent shots and scoring chances, and even went to his slapshot, something Ranger fans know that he did not use all that often in New York. I would love to see Jaromir back in the league.

My Olympic journey has finally come to an end, as I head home on a flight to the Big Apple tomorrow afternoon. The coverage here on the site, however, will stay entirely the same. I will still be covering all of the games for the rest of the tournament, just not live here in Vancouver.

The experience I had here is up there as one of the best of my life. The people, the fans, the hype, it was all amazing, and I am extremely delighted I was able to share it with all of you, my readers.

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