Thursday 7th February 2013. Team GB v Latvia.
In game one Team GB will be facing the hosts and top seeds of the group Latvia.
Ranked 10th in IIHF standings they are expected to make the 2014 games.
This is little doubt this match-up is a difficult proposition for Team GB but exactly how daunting is it?
Latvia have qualified for the previous three Winter Games, finishing 9th, 12th and 12th respectively.
In the last 10 World Championships they have consistently finished between 7-13th place, in 2012 they achieved 10th.
In charge they have Ted Nolan, signed in the latter half of 2011.
A Canadian, he has coached in the NHL holding the reigns at Buffalo and NYI, winning the Jack Adams award for the former in 1996/97
On Monday of this week Latvia announced a huge 43 man roster.
Most of these players ply their trade in the KHL and around half of those play for Dinamo Riga, a Latvian team in the Bobrov Division.
I’ve no idea what percentage of the players I’m about to highlight will play for Latvia starting tomorrow but here’s a low-down on some of the more well know guys.
Kaspars Daugavins is a 24yr old LW/RW.
He was in the 2006 and was drafted in round 3 #91 overall by Ottawa Senators
He played OHL hockey for Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors before staring in the AHL for the Binghamton Senators. Currently has 69 games experience in the NHL for Ottawa with 5 goals and 12 points and is on the current roster.
Zemgus Girgensons is 19yr old Centreman, drafted in round 1, #14 overall by Buffalo Sabres just last year. In his first AHL season for the Rochester Americans he’s accumulated 3 goals and 9 points in 31 games.
Latvia have three brothers on their roster who up until recently all played for Dinamo Riga.
Mikelis Redlihs plays for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
The 28yr old Right Winger has 7 points in 30 games this season.
Jekabs Redlihs was drafted in 2002, round 4 #119 overall by Columbus Blue Jackets.
He never got a shot in the NHL and the 30yr old defenseman has just joined Metalurgs Liepaja.
The eldest of the brothers at 32, Krisjanis Redlihs was drafted also in 2002, but later in round 5 #154 overall by New Jersey Devils. The defenseman played 239 AHL games but never received a call up.
He is still with Dinamo Riga and has 17 point in 40 games.
Oskars Bartulis has played 66 games for 1 goal & 9 points in the NHL
On June 30, 2012 Bārtulis’ $600,000 contract was bought out by the Flyers after spending the 2011–12 season with the Flyers AHL affiliate.
The 26 year old defenseman is now with Donbass Donetsk.
Janis Sprukts was drafted in 2000, round 8 #234 overall by Florida Panthers. Played 14 games in the NHL after being a huge AHL success (106 points in 117 games).
Currently with CSKA Moskva in the KHL, the 31yr old Centreman was Latvia’s captain in 2012
Lauris Darzins is a 28yr old LW.
Drafted in 2003, round 9 #268 overall by Nashville Predators, he never had the call to head to North America. Currently with Ak Bars Kazan he has a decent record in the KHL, accumulating 49 goals, 110 points in 197 games
Raitis Ivanans played 6 years in the NHL for Montreal, Los Angeles and Calgary. The 34yr old LW enforcer played 282 games in the big league as well as another 218 in the AHL. Currently with Dinamo Riga.
Martins Karsums is 26 yrs old and captain of Dinamo Riga.
He was drafted in 2004, round 2 #64 overall by Boston Bruins.
The LW scored 155 points in 212 AHL games and made 24 NHL appearances split between Boston and Tampa.
Arturs Kulda was only playing in the NHL last season for the Winnipeg Jets.
The 24yr old Defenseman was a 2006 round 7, #200 overall pick by Atlanta Thrashers.
Played just 15 NHL games to go with 260 in the AHL.
Currently with Sibir Novosibirsk and has 9 goals,15 points in 48 starts.
Sandis Ozolins is perhaps the most famous Latvian player still lacing his skates. The 40yr old Defenseman was a 1991 round 2 #30 pick overall by San Jose Sharks. He played for the San Jose Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, New York Rangers, before finishing his NHL career with San Jose.
He won the Stanley Cup in 1996 with the Colorado Avalanche and made 7 NHL All-Star Game appearances. His NHL record is 875 Games, 167 Goals, 397 Assists for 564 Points.
Sandis played hockey for the Soviet Union until it was no more in 1990–91, before representing Latvia.
It is slightly intimidating when you see the calibre of player Team GB has to face in black and white, but as we know hockey is played on ice and anything is possible.