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Latvia hockey team victorious in tense Olympic qualifier

Photo: LETA.
 RIGA, Feb 8 – Team Latvia moved a step closer to the next Winter Olympics in thrilling fashion tonight, escaping with a 3:2 victory over Kazakhstan as game officials rightfully disallowed a score in the final 30 seconds.

Juris Stals, Mikelis Redlihs and Lauris Darzins scored the goals for Latvia, while Roman Starchenko and Dimitri Upper scored the goals for Kazakhstan.

The Latvian team started out the match with two quick goals in the first several minutes of the first period, as the period ended 2:0 in favor of the home team.

The Kazakhs came out shooting in the second period, and were able to battle back to end the period with a 2:2 draw.

The third period once again saw Latvia take the initiative, which paid off after a mistake by Kazakh defenseman Kevin Dallman, who gave the puck away to Janis Sprukts who assisted a goal to Lauris Darzins.

In the game's final minute, the Kazakhs took out goalkeeper and were able to score a goal with about 20 seconds left, but the goal was disallowed because as it was deliberately scored by a skate.

Yesterday's game was also the 216th game in a Latvian uniform for forward Aleksandrs Nizivijs, who has set the record for most games played for the Latvian national team.

Latvia plays France Sunday in a final crucial battle in the qualification tournament. France beat Great Britain 4:2 earlier in the day.

If Latvia earns just a point from Sunday's game, it will earn qualification to the 2014 Winter Olympics.
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