Commentary

Nolan made Latvia believe in upset

Updated: February 18, 2014, 7:28 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

SOCHI, Russia -- There won't be any miracles in Buffalo this season, but Ted Nolan sure has pulled one off here in Sochi, coaching Latvia into its first Olympic quarterfinal after a 3-1 upset of Switzerland in the qualification round on Tuesday night.

And it's clear that Nolan's impact on his players is as much heartfelt as it is X's and O's.

"He's been a huge part of us," former Bruins and Senators winger Kaspars Daugavins said of Nolan. "We never had a coach that actually believes in the players. It's always been like army-style where everybody just has to work hard and you never get a tap on your shoulders, saying, 'Good job, buddy.' He brings a different spirit on the team. He actually makes us believe that we're actually a good team. I've been to a lot of world championships and an Olympics before, and we never had a feeling that we can actually win something. We just went out there and played."

Now Latvia needs another upset. A mother of one: Team Canada in the quarterfinals Wednesday night.

"We'll just tell our goalie to stop every shot," smiled Daugavins. "Then you can't lose, right? ... They're such a good hockey team. The odds are so low [against them], but maybe we're going to go there and just enjoy. Maybe by having a lot of fun, maybe Latvia will get a break. You never know."

Latvia lost all three of its preliminary-round games, but all three were close (against Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Sweden).

Daugavins said, "So we talked in the room, we said, 'We battled top teams in the world, all those guys play in the NHL and make huge bucks. Let's make a statement out there that we can actually play hockey without having a hockey league in Latvia.'"

He added: "Nobody expected us to get this far, so we might as well just go out there, fire around and see what happens. You never know."

Nolan took over as coach of the Sabres in November when Ron Rolston was fired. At 15-34-8, Buffalo has the worst record in the NHL.

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