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Canucks prospect Arturs Silovs is saving Latvia at the 2023 World Hockey Championship

The young goaltender has backstopped Latvia to three-straight wins in front of his home-country fans.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Arturs Silovs has taken over the Latvian net at the 2023 World Hockey Championship.

For the second-straight World Hockey Championship, Arturs Silovs has gone from Latvia’s backup to their tournament-saving number-one goaltender. At some point, they really have to start using the Silovs as their starter right from game one.

It took a lot less time for the Vancouver Canucks prospect to win Latvia’s net this year. At the 2022 World Championship, Silovs split starts with Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins, but owned the Latvian net by the end of their tournament with a fantastic .952 save percentage.

At this year’s tournament, it took Silovs just five minutes to take over as Latvia’s number-one goaltender. Ivars Punnenovs, who started for Latvia last year at the Olympics, gave up two goals on the first three shots he faced against Canada. Silovs has been in net for Latvia ever since.

While Silovs hasn’t been quite as unbeatable as last year, he’s been a key reason why Latvia finds themselves in position to qualify for the quarterfinals as one of the top-four teams in their group.

With the tournament hosted by Latvia, he’s doing it in his home country in front of thousands of screaming Latvian hockey fans. 

Since the game against Canada, Silovs has stopped 95 of the 103 shots he’s faced for a .922 save percentage. Latvia has needed every single one of those 95 saves, as their three wins have all come by just one goal.

That includes a stunning 4-3 overtime win against Czechia, one of the toughest teams in their group. Silovs made one of the best saves of the tournament to ensure that game got to overtime for Latvia to pull out the win.

Silovs followed that up with 20 saves on 21 shots against Norway for his second win in as many nights. Then, on Friday, Silovs came up with 26 saves on 28 shots against Slovenia to lead Latvia to a 3-2 win.

The three-straight wins put Latvia in fourth place in Group B behind Switzerland, Canada, and Czechia. They have eight points, four more than Slovakia and Norway, but have played one more game. 

Latvia has just two games left in the round-robin stage and may need to win both of them to qualify for the quarterfinals. One of Latvia’s games is against Kazakhstan, which should be a winnable game, while the other is against Switzerland, who are currently first place in Group B and will be harder to beat.

Norway has a tough schedule remaining, with games against Czechia, Canada, and Slovakia, so they are less of a concern than Slovakia, who could be a problem. Their remaining games are against Kazakhstan, Slovenia, and Norway — they could easily win all three games.

At the World Championship, regulation wins are worth three points. If Slovakia wins all three of their remaining games in regulation, they'll have 13 points.

Assuming Latvia beats Kazakhstan in regulation, they'll have 11 points, two behind Slovakia. That means they'll have to beat Switzerland in regulation to pass Slovakia in points and qualify for the quarterfinals. An overtime or shootout win — worth two points — won't be enough because Slovakia hold the tie breaker as they won their game against Latvia 2-1.

That would be a heartbreaking result in front of the diehard Latvian crowd.

That could make the final game of the round-robin stage — Latvia vs Switzerland on Tuesday — absolutely crucial. By that point, Slovakia will have finished all of their games and set the stakes for Latvia.

That game, along with the rest of the World Championships, can be watched on TSN. Latvia vs Switzerland will air at 10 a.m. PDT on TSN4.

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