International Ice Hockey Federation

Latvia's new look

Latvia's new look

Indrasis eager to seize the moment

Published 07.05.2017 09:43 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Latvia's new look
Miks Indrasis and his Latvian teammates celebrate with their fans after starting the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship with a win. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
A new head coach means a new attitude from Latvia - and no reputation can spook this team. Miks Indrasis explained why he's so confident at this year's Worlds.

Latvia is demanding renewed respect. That’s the message from forward Miks Indrasis after his two-goal blast helped the Baltic state to a 3-0 victory over Denmark in its opening game in Cologne.

After recent World Championship campaigns proved a struggle for the men from Riga, incoming head coach Bob Hartley has brought a fresh outlook to the team. And that means a new, in-yer-face playing style and a determination to strive for success rather than struggle for survival.

“Hartley has completed changed the structure of our game,” Indrasis said after Saturday’s winning start. “We’re no longer interested in playing off the back foot. Now we’re looking to seize the initiative ourselves, to play aggressive hockey. Now, we believe our opponents should fear our team.”

Evidence of the new-look Latvia could be seen in the opening game – eventually. Early on, Denmark was on top and only a stellar show from goalie Elvis Merzlikins carried the team safely to the first intermission. But everything changed in the second period.

“We knew we had to work a bit harder with the puck, not to keep giving it away,” Indrasis added. “We changed everything, we played to a new rhythm.”

The current confidence coursing through Indrasis and his team-mates could also re-energise one of the country’s biggest sporting rivalries – the hockey battle with Russia. The teams are not due to meet until May 15 but, for once, the familiar ‘take it a game at a time’ mantra was suspended as Indrasis talked up the possibility of an upset.

“Everyone knows that Russia always has a strong team, I can’t say anything new about that,” he said. “But we believe we can cause problems for everyone, including Russia. We will play our games, and we believe we can win. That’s why we’re here.”

It’s a strong statement from a team that is ranked among the outsiders in Group A, and an even stronger one from a player whose club season against Russian opposition was disappointing. Indrasis is one of Dinamo Riga’s leading players, but he struggled for form as the Latvian club slumped to the foot of the KHL’s Western Conference. His 23-point tally was the lowest of the 26-year-old’s career, and it wasn’t until November 1 that he scored his first goals of a frustrating season.

“Of course, right from the start of the season I didn’t really achieve anything,” he admitted. “I know all about that, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why. Right now I need to do something about all the bits and pieces that didn’t work out over the season playing for Dinamo. As for a new contract – no comment! I’m not thinking about that at the moment, I’m focused on team Latvia.”

Among the excitement and optimism around Latvia, there’s one minor wrinkle – the ice in the LANXESS arena. The arena, one of Europe’s biggest for hockey, has packed in big crowds … and that’s been making it hot and sticky even at ice level.

“It’s really hot down on the ice,” Indrasis added. “For the first few minutes it’s OK, but it quickly gets soft. By the end of the period, you can’t really risk trying to stick-handle past someone, you just need to shoot whenever you see a chance.”

Right now, a confident Latvia team sees a chance to shoot for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2009.


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