Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks dies at age 24

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Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks has died after suffering an apparent head injury in a fall, the team announced Monday. He was 24.

“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of Matiss Kivlenieks, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his mother, Astrida, his family and friends during this devastating time,” Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson said in a statement.

“Kivi was an outstanding young man who greeted every day and everyone with a smile and the impact he had during his four years with our organization will not be forgotten.”

The Blue Jackets say Kivlenieks died Sunday night in a tragic accident. Per the team, medical personnel were called immediately, but he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen tweeted early Monday, “Matiss, you will be dearly missed.”

While former teammate Nick Foligno called Kivlenieks’ death a “tragic loss.”

Kivlenieks played behind Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins in Columbus this past season as he made two starts in the NHL, recording a 3.40 goals-against average and .901 save percentage. The native of Riga, Latvia, also made eight appearances in the AHL, where he put up a 2.25 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

This spring, Kivlenieks also helped host Latvia stun Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Championship, making 38 saves for a 2-0 shutout on the opening day of the tournament. He finished the event with a 2.18 goals-against average, .922 save percentage and one shutout in four games.

In 2019-20, the undrafted netminder suited up for six NHL games, posting a 2.95 goals against-average and .898 save percentage. Kivlenieks signed with the Blue Jackets as a free agent in May 2017.

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