Published: Just now
RIGA. On the ice, Tre Kronor is the clear favorite against Latvia.
But the big threat to the Swedish semi-final is in the stands:
– Honestly, it’s been crazy, says the Latvian star, the Swedish acquaintance Rodrigo Abols, about the massive crowd pressure in the Riga Arena.
Tre Kronor has moved from Tampere to Riga for the quarter-final against home team Latvia. A Latvian team that started the tournament with two straight losses, but then lined up five straight victories. The win against Switzerland in the final group stage match saw Latvia finish third in the group, the country’s best finish in World Cup history.
In hockey-mad Latvia, ice hockey is close to religion, not least now that the WC is being played on home ground.
– It is an experience to be part of and give Latvia so much joy and pride. Every spring, the Ice Hockey World Cup is the biggest thing that happens in Latvia and the whole nation is glued to the television. It’s a lot of pressure as a player but also a lot of fun, says Rodrigo Abols.
A big reason why Latvia is in the quarter-finals for only the second time in history is the incredible home support.
A boiling crowd that the SHL profile and assistant team captain Rodrigo Abols praises.
– It’s always sold out and loud. The arena exploded as we took the point against Switzerland to advance to the quarter finals. People screamed out loud and wept openly with joy.
Hope to get extra energy from the audience
Just over 9,000 fanatical Latvians have supported their team during the group stage and at least as many have kept going in the large fan area just outside the arena.
– Honestly, it’s been crazy. The crowd pressure is something we should take advantage of. It’s a sixth outfield player for us, says Abols.
Crowd pressure is something Tre Kronor has to deal with, and national team captain Sam Hallam is well aware that it will be a factor to take into account.
– For our part, it’s about managing the environment and maintaining peace, says Hallam.
How do you think about the boiling witch’s cauldron you will be faced with?
– Of course, it is a support for the Latvians, but it also means that we as an away team get extra energy from the environment and the atmosphere.
How will you talk to the team about dealing with it and not getting too carried away?
– That when we play defense, we play our defense, that we do those things and have humility. We play against the hockey team, not against the crowd.