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Columbus Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins: Matiss Kivlenieks ‘died a hero’

Feb 28, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks (80) tends net against the Minnesota Wild during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins said Thursday that fellow goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks “died a hero” in a July 4 fireworks mishap.

Speaking at a private memorial service in Arlington, Ohio, Merzlikins said his teammate’s actions saved him and his pregnant wife from the errant fireworks blast.

“He saved not just many lives, but when it happened, I was standing 20, 30 feet back of him and I was hugging my wife,” Merzlikins said, per ESPN. “He saved my son, he saved my wife, and he saved me.”

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Merzlikins, whose wife, Aleksandra, is in her third trimester, said their son’s middle name will be Matiss. Kivlenieks had been living in Ohio with Merzlikins, a fellow Latvian.

Kivlenieks, 24, was attending a Fourth of July party at goaltending coach Manny Legace’s house in Novi, Mich., when he was struck by a firework. He died from chest trauma with major damage to his heart and lungs.

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Kivlenieks played in eight games (six starts) for the Blue Jackets in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons. He was 2-2-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage.

–Field Level Media