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NHL goalie killed by fireworks played junior hockey in Minnesota

The young goaltender played junior hockey in Minnesota as a teenager.

Shockwaves from the death of NHL goalie Matiss Kivlenieks have been felt all the way in Minnesota, where the 24-year-old played junior hockey less than a decade ago. 

Kivlenieks died in a fireworks accident on the Fourth of July, with police saying the Columbus Blue Jackets goalie was struck in the chest by a fireworks mortar.

Kivlenieks was once committed to play college hockey at Minnesota State-Mankato, but prior to that he was a star goalie playing junior hockey for the team now known as the Minnesota Mullets. 

"Heaven gained an Angel last night and a #1 goaltender. Our hearts, prayers and wishes go out to the family of Forever Laker, Matiss Kivlenieks," the Minnesota Mullets said on social media. 

Kivlenieks played for the program for two seasons – 2013-14 and 2014-15 – when they were the Lakers of Edina and Forest Lake, respectively. He was 16 years old at the time and playing hockey in North America for the first time after growing up in Latvia. 

The 2014-15 Forest Lake Lakers reached the Tier III Minnesota Junior Hockey League playoff semifinals, with Kivlenieks posting a 2.23 goals-against average and an impressive .930 save percentage. 

According to police, the mortar-style firework tilted and fired in the direction of people Sunday night. Kivlenieks was in a hot tub and tried to avoid the blast but was hit by the mortar.

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A medical examiner ruled that Kivlenieks died from a percussive injury that caused major damage to his heart and lungs, police said. 

"There was some minor injury to his exterior, which would lead us to believe that some portion of the firework made contact with him, but we're not really sure if it was a direct hit or whether the percussion from the explosion caused his injuries," the chief of the Novi Police Department said, according to The Detroit News.

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