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Dans Locmelis came home to a heroes welcome after winning Bronze at the World Championships!

A Bruins prospect got to be a key part of Latvian hockey history!

TV3 Latvia

Latvia, generally speaking, isn’t supposed to be here.

While the Maroon and White has had a steady trickle of NHLers come across the pond and bring glory or at least recognition to the small baltic state, Latvia generally has held the position of “spirited underdog” for pretty much every year they’re in the IIHF World Championships. Never bad enough for relegation unless something really bad happens, but usually not on the same level as the Big four nations of Finland, Sweden, Canada, and the US. Spirited, certainly well-represented by fans who are known for their passion for the game, and fun...but usually never more than that.

So what if they clawed their way into the Top 4 anyway?

Well, that’s exactly what happened in the IIHF World Championship that just wrapped up yesterday, as Latvia managed to get their way into the Bronze Medal game against the United States.

And then won in the only way to generate as much joy as possible: in overtime.

How they got there

Group B was full of surprises over the course of the World Championships; Canada sort of sleepwalked their way through the entire tournament on their way to gold, Switzerland roared into the first place position with an explosion of offense the Swiss haven’t seen in awhile (they also really only played two good teams, but they did beat them), and Latvia, the home team for Group B, had to fight like animals just to get into the knockout round.

It didn’t start great, as they were blanked by Canada 6-0, and followed that up with what looked like a real heartbreaker 2-1 loss to Slovakia.

Losing to the Czechs would’ve been devastating, but a funny thing happened when they hit the ice against Czechia: They practically overwhelmed them after Period 1, hammering them with shots until at long last in an overtime winner, they managed to shock a traditional power with help from Oskars Batna.

From there? Norway, Slovenia, and Kazakhstan. Easier prey than where they started, and they dispatched them quickly. Rocketing them up the standings, but with one final team to play; the world-beating Swiss.

Switzerland ripped through Group B with surprising efficiency; blanking their first three opponents, and then never once trailing their foes in the back-half of the prelims. Such opponents included Czechia, Slovakia, and Canada. They were primed to be considered the big surprise of the tournament alongside Germany, who was also playing out of their minds.

But guess who showed up to ruin that little parade? Latvia once again, playing a 4-3 OT thriller. Knockout rounds ahoy.

Traditional thinking says that playing Sweden in the first round is probably the point where the cinderella run ends, but the Latvians clearly didn’t hear it, as Dans Locmelis opened the scoring for Latvia and they never looked back, beating them 3-1 and sending them to face Canada. Predictably, they could not overcome Canada’s might, but it didn’t really matter: no matter what happened now, they would still play for a medal. Something no Latvian team has done up to this point at the World Championships.

All they had to do was beat the USA, the country that pumps the second most amount of money, talent and infrastructure into their national team right behind Canada. The IIHF’s 4th ranked team. 3rd if you decide that Russia isn’t coming back.

Piece of cake, right?

Go back up and see how that went.

How about Dans Locmelis?

Bruins prospect Dans Locmelis was a respectable part of his team, finishing with two goals and an assist in 9 games. Context is king however, as Locmelis opened the scoring on Sweden in the quarterfinals, and again against Canada in the Semifinals, and it was his primary assist that got them even with the US in the bronze medal game, which set the runway for their OT winner.

Not bad for a 4th round pick! He’ll get to show off that medal at UMass Amherst this fall.

How Latvia’s handling it?

The Latvian government declared a national holiday.

The photo at the top of this article? That’s from Riga, the Latvian capital.

All those people showed up to see the team that put one over on the USA. Proving once and for all that Latvia shows up for this sport.

It also proves that when this sport is at it’s best, when underdogs finally get a chance to do something incredible and succeed? Absolutely nothing else compares.

Well done to the Latvians, well done to Dans Locmelis and of course former Bruin Kaspars Daugavins!