If you watched Canada vs Latvia this morning you witnessed an astonishing sight — Kristers Gudļevskis, a prospect goaltender in the Tampa Bay Lightning system who had not even planned to play today, just about pulled off a miracle. He faced 57 shots and only allowed 2 goals by the end of the game, holding Canada to a tie until late into the 3rd period.
What exactly has turned Latvia’s team into a dangerous spoiler this Olympics? Kaspars Daugavins pinpointed why they have been a success under Ted Nolans, “We never had a coach that actually believes in the players.” That seems such a simple, yet incredibly powerful key to their success, but you could see it every time this team took to the ice during the games. They lost all of their games through the preliminary round (SUI 1-0; CZE 4-2; SWE 5-2) but they were a surprise in the playoffs as they won their match against Switzerland 3-1, and almost pulled off a miracle against Canada.
It is hard not to cheer for such a team and their relatively unknown goalie Gudļevskis, who previously this season played in the ECHL (Florida Everblades) and the AHL (Syracuse Crunch). James Mirtle, from The Globe and Mail, investigated this young goaltender in a wonderful article, and talked to Tampa Bay Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean on Gudļevskis, “When he received his new set of gear with the Lightning colours, it was like Christmas. […] He deserves everything that’s happening,” Jean said. “He’s worked his way up to that moment [at the Olympics] and it’s great for him. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”
Following the game, Carey Price told reporters in Sochi, “That was one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen in a long time. He played a heck of a game.”
Earlier this season I had a brief glimpse of Gudļevskis as he played for the ECHL’s Florida Everblades before he was called up to the Syracuse Crunch. My advice, keep a close eye on this kid!
Also, from Joe Pelletier’s Greatest Hockey Legends.com “Kristers Gudlevskis Brickwalls Canada”
Every Olympics has it’s amazing stories. In hockey we’ve already seen T.J. Oshie’s shootout heroics and the Slovenians playing so well.
Then there is Kristers Gudlevskis. A $55,000 minor league backup goalie brick-walled Team Canada and their $149 million worth of NHL salary in the quarterfinal on Wednesday. Oh Canada won the game, 2-1. In fact they dominated the game. But Gudlevskis became an instant hero and almost knocked off the defending champions singlehandedly.