The Stockton Record
Maris Ziedins was nervous as he waited for his chance to represent his country in the Olympics.
But when his stick touched the puck for the first time, it was just another hockey game.
Ziedins, a forward for the Stockton Thunder, is playing for the Latvian national hockey team in the Winter Olympics. Latvia held the United States to a shocking 3-3 tie in the opener, and lost to Slovakia 6-3 on Thursday.
Ziedins, 27, said it did take some time to get used to the atmosphere at his first Olympics.
“I was a little bit nervous, but at the same time anxious to play against these great players simply to see how’d I look against them,” Ziedins said.
This is only the second time Latvia has qualified for the Olympics in hockey, so the team sent shockwaves through Turin when it took a 3-2 lead into the third period and held on for a tie against a U.S. squad filled with NHL players.
“For a small country like us, it is a quite an accomplishment to get a point out of that game,” Ziedins said. “I guess we can’t complain about the tie, but I think we had a real chance to win the game. It’s just not easy to protect a lead against a team like the U.S.”
Ziedins has not scored or had an assist in the first two games, but said Latvia coach Leonids Beresnevs has been using him for defensive purposes.
“Personally I think I played up to my coach’s expectations,” Ziedins said. “My role right now is not to score but mainly keep the opponent from scoring and make the other team tired by aggressively forechecking.”
Ziedins is scheduled to return to the Thunder on Feb. 25. His Stockton teammates and coach Chris Cichocki watched Latvia’s game against the U.S. in their hotel rooms before Wednesday’s game against the Utah Grizzlies.
“It was great to see Maris out there,” Cichocki said. “We’re proud to have someone from the Thunder at the Olympics.”