For the first time in history, Latvia is playing in the quarter-finals of the Under-20 World Cup.

    Harijs Brants fights for the puck with Canada’s Riley Kidney. On Wednesday, Latvia will try to knock Sweden out of the World Cup tournament. ZUMAWIRE / MVPHOTOS

    Latvia rose to the top level of the World Cup when Russia was excluded from the IIHF tournaments in the spring.

    The country of about two million inhabitants perfectly fills the screen of Russia. For the first time, it reached a place in the next games in the World Cup tournament of this age group.

    – In Latvia, people are quite excited. Radio stations and the media play along, the games are shown live on TV. Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in Latvia, reminds the head coach Artis Abols.

    – When you win, you have a lot of friends. Not just the wife. I am proud to be part of this team, Abols continues.

    Challenged Finland

    Latvia beat Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the preliminary series. Turpa came from Canada and Finland.

    – We played well against Finland for 55 minutes, then there was a collapse. Finland plays the most organized hockey among men and in this age group.

    – We were nervous against Slovakia. We played a good match against the Czech Republic, Abols, who has also played in Finland for a while, cheered his team’s journey.

    Reason involved

    Artis Abols has already made history with his team at the World Championships in Edmonton. Petteri Paalasmaa

    Abols used to work in the KHL as a head coach for the Lada and Riga teams. The man pumps his team to an even bigger surprise in Edmonton.

    – Sweden is Sweden, it’s always a good team. The team skates well and its players play in the big leagues. Everything seems to be reserved for the NHL, 49-year-old Koutsi thinks about it.

    – But we are not satisfied yet. In order to win, we have to play organized and sensible puck on Wednesday. Everything is possible in one game.

    “Work in progress”

    Defender Harijs Brants is on the same lines.

    – People in Latvia are probably excited, but we are not satisfied. Our work is unfinished.

    – This team has been together for 3-4 years and knows each other. We are a tight team. That’s why we made the playoffs. Against Sweden, we have to defend really closely. We mustn’t give the opponent overpowering attacks, that’s what they’ll hit.

    – At Takuu, we are ready against Sweden, Brants, who played in the Acadie-Bathurst team of the Quebec junior league last season, assures.

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