Latvia’s Elvis Merzlikins may have taken a 4-0 loss to Russia at the World Championship, but the 22-year-old managed to turn in one of the best saves of the season with a diving effort to turn away a Sergei Mozyakin shot.
Unless you’re a frequent watcher of Switzerland’s NLA or have an eye for Columbus Blue Jackets prospects, you may not have ever heard of Elvis Merzlikins. But Monday, Merzlikins will likely be on every single sports highlights show you see after he made a Superman-esque save against Russia.
Merzlikins, 22, made the stop in Monday’s World Championship round robin contest that pitted Latvia against Russia. And the Latvian netminder, though he took the 4-0 loss, was one of the biggest stories of the game. In the third period, with Russia already ahead 4-0, Merzlikins made a save that kept Russia from putting home its fifth goal of the outing, and his stop was jaw-dropping.
After the puck came out front to Sergei Mozyakin, the veteran winger held on to the puck and showcased the type of patience that has made him a consistent 25-plus goal scorer in Russia. Merzlikins, who was moving right to left, was down and seemingly out when he dug his skate in just enough to make a diving stop:
— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) May 9, 2016
Merzlikins’ stop was one of 33 he made in the contest, but Russia simply overpowered their Latvian competition.
Because of the disparity between the talent levels of the top-tier countries and those which fight to stay out of relegation, games such as Monday’s between Russia and Latvia can often come down to whether or not the lower-ranked team’s goaltender can play. Merzlikins was stellar, but Russia’s offensive firepower was simply too much.
If Merzlikins, who was selected 76th overall by Columbus in 2014, happened to steal this game, though, few would have been surprised. The Latvian netminders have made a habit of giving medal-contending teams fits in recent years, most memorably when Kristers Gudlevskis nearly stole a victory for Latvia over Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
(Video via Robert Soderlind/HockeyWebcast)