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Skilled rearguard Sorokins stars for Latvia
By Peter Westermark


For the Latvians, Wednesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Italy was a bitter pill to swallow. It meant that they will have to fight for their top division status for the first time since 2001. Their bid to stay up starts Friday night versus Ukraine in Mytischi, and veterans like 33-year-old Olegs Sorokins will be key players. On the strength of their previous results, the Latvians enter the Relegation Round as favorites.

They are a skillful team, which was evident when Sorokins assisted on Lauris Darzins's first-period goal versus Italy. Sorokins unleashed a shot that had just the right speed for Darzins to tip home from in front of the net. It was the kind of set play that will help Latvia maintain its status as a top-division team.

He is a veteran of five IIHF World Championships, and is now in his sixth tournament. Looking back, he said former Team Latvia coach Curt Lindstrom was a positive influence on his career.

"He meant a lot to me in the national team," Sorokins told Södertälje's official website in a recent interview. "We connected well and he gave me a lot of responsibility. But it's hard to tell what makes a coach good.

"The first time I was told I had potential I was 18," he recalled. "It's never too late to succeed. [NHL defenseman] Sandis Ozolinsh didn't make the junior team in Latvia and had to play on a factory team. He had to take the long road to where he is now."

Sorokins also made his way up through the ranks over the years. He left Latvia in 1996 to join the Quad City Mallards of the Colonial Hockey League and spent a couple of years in the North American minors. While there, he also had a stint playing roller hockey with the Empire State Cobras. Among his teammates was current defensive partner and Team Latvia captain Rodrigo Lavins.

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