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Latvia's Gudlevskis nearly breaks Canada's heart

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 19, 2014 at 2:52 pm •  Published: February 19, 2014
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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Latvia's Kristers Gudlevskis got hit with so many shots, you began wondering whether he'd need a cut man by the end.

Gudlevskis wasn't boxing — but he looked like someone who had just been a fight after facing 57 shots and giving up just two goals in Latvia's surprising 2-1 quarterfinal loss Wednesday night to mighty Canada.

The 21-year-old National Hockey League prospect couldn't remember a busier night, nor a more nerve-wracking one. He was still catching his breath 10 minutes after the game, his long hair and jersey soaked through with sweat. His helmet was tucked under one arm, a picture of the Freedom Monument from back home in Riga — commemorating Latvia's long struggle for independence — depicted just above the facemask.

Even in defeat, Gudlevskis imagined his countrymen would find something worth celebrating.

"We were disappointed," he said afterward, "because we tried to make a miracle today and we just couldn't do it."

"For the program, I'm not sure how much we did," said his teammate Zemgus Girgensons. "But for the country, I'm sure people back home are going to be very happy with what we accomplished.

Latvia offset an early goal from Canada's Patrick Sharp with a tally from Lauris Darzins, but the rest of the game was played predominantly in the Latvian end. Shea Weber finally broke the 1-1 tie for the defending Olympic champions with a slap shot from the point that beat Gudlevskis low on the stick side. It was Canada's 54th shot of the game; at that point, Latvia had put 13 on net.

After starting against Sweden earlier in the week, Gudlevskis was playing in only his second Olympic contest.

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