Latvia defeated Sweden in a 3-1 upset Thursday, knocking the Swedes out of the IIHF World Championship in the quarterfinals. Sweden played the elimination game without one of their top players, with Rasmus Sandin still out of the lineup with a lower-body injury.
The loss marks the fourth straight tournament where Sweden failed make the podium, last doing so with a gold medal win in 2018. Team Latvia, playing at home in Riga, will advance to the semifinals for the first time in the tournament’s history.
HISTORY MADE!@lhf_lv defeats @Trekronorse to punch their ticket to the #IIHFWorlds semi-finals!
Game Story: https://t.co/4SNVeWnt9G pic.twitter.com/KLHUmMkUks
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 25, 2023
The absence of Sandin greatly hindered the Swedes. After a stellar start to the tournament, Sandin was injured Tuesday by a brutal knee-on-knee hit from Team USA’s Michael Eyssimont. He would not return to the game. Eyssimont was ejected from the match and was later suspended one game for the hit.
Rasmus Sandin is in a lot of pain and has left the game after Michael Eyssimont got him in the knee. #IIHFworlds pic.twitter.com/B0upxvDpSM
— Steven Ellis (@SEllisHockey) May 23, 2023
Team Sweden was initially hopeful that Sandin would be able to play Thursday. He participated in practice in a full-contact jersey on Wednesday, but left the ice limping partway through. Ultimately, he did not return for the quarterfinals, where he watched his team lose from afar.
For most of the tournament, Sandin had spent most of the tournament paired with Timothy Liljegren, who had been his longtime defense partner on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Liljegren would score Sweden’s only goal against Latvia, tying the score 1-1 midway through the second. The team’s defense would break down in the third, however: Latvia would score two unanswered markers to finish the game 3-1.
Latvia will next face Canada in the semifinals on Saturday, while Team USA will play against Germany. If Latvia manages another upset, they will secure a spot on the podium for the first time in team history.
Meanwhile, Sandin will return home to Sweden as he prepares for this fall’s training camp back in Washington. In his breakdown day interview, he noted that he looks forward to playing a complete season with the Capitals.
“It’s nice to be here from day one and have that full year,” he told reporters last month. “I think, first off, [I’m] just super excited for the summer, and go back to see family now in the beginning, and then get back to work and be as well prepared as I can for next year…I’m excited for it.”
Headline image: Katie Adler/RMNB