Latvian Hockey News Report

By Didzis Rudmanis

Archive for October 2010

Shakhter releases Blinovs

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Latvian forward Viktors Blinovs, who was the last Latvian in foreign Belarussian Extraleague clubs, has been released from Shakhter Soligorsk, reports Icebox.

This season Blinovs has played only nine games, of whom majority in September, as later on coach already was not dressing him for the games. In the nine games played Blinovs posted two goals and added two assists.

Blinovs had been playing in the Belarussian Extraleague already since 2006/07 and has experienced playing for Neman Grodno, Gomel, HK Riga 2000, Metallurg Zhlobin and now Shakhter Soligorsk. In the first half of 2008/09, Blinovs played for the KHL club Dinamo Riga.

League, besides the Latvian clubs playing there, has always had several Latvian players playing in Belarussian clubs simultaneously, however, after Blinovs has been released, now there is not a single Latvian left in the league. Also Janis Straupe and Aleksandrs Macijevskis, who started this season in Zhlobin, have both been released.

Cinks fighting for a place in Krylia Sovetov

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After being released from HK Riga just several days ago, 20-year-old Latvian forward Ronalds Cinks has now joined another MHL club Krylia Sovetov for a try-out, reports LETA news agency.

Cinks was released from HK Riga as he did not meet the expectations of the club. Both the coaching staff and Cinks himself agreed on breaking the contract. Unofficial sources, however, were informing that Cinks was punished for disregarding the disciplinary terms of HK Riga.

Krylia Sovetov has also a VHL team, where another Latvian Sergejs Pecura is currently spending already his second season. In the recent years also Roberts Bukarts and Ainars Podzins (both now playing for Dinamo Riga) have played there.

This season Cinks played 12 games with HK Riga, scoring a goal and adding six assists. Throughout the past two seasons Cinks was also repeatedly recalled to Dinamo Riga of the KHL, where played a total of 20 games.

Written by Didzis Rudmanis

October 30, 2010 at 14:34

A KHL Winter Classic in Riga?

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On January 16, 2011 the first-ever Kontinental Hockey League Winter Classic might take place in Riga, Latvia. As of now it is only one of the proposals, where to host the Dinamo Riga – SKA St. Petersburg regular season game, as Arena Riga, due to a concert for Latvian composer Raimonds Pauls 75th anniversary, is already occupied, reports Kas Jauns.

It is proposed that the game could take place in the Skonto Stadium, just a couple of hundred metres away from Arena Riga. Skonto Stadium, built in 2000, is the national soccer stadium of Latvia, with a seating capacity of only 10,000 [just says how popular soccer is in Latvia]. The other options include playing the game in Liepaja Ice Arena or Ice Arena, both having a capacity of only around 1000 seats.

Up until now, Dinamo Riga has played five of its home games outside Arena Riga – in the autumn of 2008-09 two games were held in Ice Arena and another two were played in Espoo, Finland, while last season, also due to arena being already occupied by other event, one game against Severstal Cherepovets was held in Liepaja. serves also as the training facility for both Dinamo Riga and HK Riga.

“As of now, a decision has not been made, because it is only one of the proposals. Of course, we would really appreciate playing againsta SKA in Arena Riga, but we very well understand that maestro [Raimonds Pauls] has an anniversary,” said Zigmars Priede, the Director of Hockey Operations. “That would be nothing new, as the world has already experience of organising such games.”

This game would not become the first Kontinental Hockey League game under clear sky, as the first-ever KHL All-Star game in 2009 was held in Red Square, Moscow. Unfortunately, at the time temperature in Moscow was far below zero [approx. -20 °C] and the game attracted only around 2000 spectators. Luckily, January in Riga should not be as tough.

Pelss talks about his own past

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Once Edmonton Oilers had picked Latvian forward Kristians Pelss in the seventh round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, a lot of people wondered, who is this kid. As months passed and Pelss arrived to Edmonton, some of them were resolved, but not a lot about his earlier days was learned. We now offer not only some background info about the player, but also a small conversation with Pelss.

Kristians has began 2010-11 by posting a goal and adding a single assist in 10 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.

Pelss, who was born in Preili, for the first time stepped on ice in Daugavpils, where he began his junior career. At the age of 16 he managed to earn a spot on the DHK Latgale team, which played in the Belarusian league – a professional league, comparable to British Elite Ice Hockey League, French Ligue Magnus or even Austrian EBEL. In 2009-10, when DHK Latgale, due to financial problems, returned to playing in Latvian league, which currently is a half-professional league, Pelss joined Dinamo Juniors Riga, the farm club of KHL’s Dinamo Riga.

Pelss statistics:

2008-2009 DHK Latgale Belarus 31 3 4 7 17
DHK Latgale-2 Latvia 22 9 11 20 24
Daugavpils U20 Latvia U20 8 3 9 12 16
Latvia U18 WJC-18 D1 4 0 1 1 6
2009-2010 Dinamo Juniors Riga Belarus 46 6 3 9 28
Latvia U18 WJC-18 6 2 1 3 0

Kristians also did not mind answering us a couple of questions about his earlier days of his hockey career.

Who encouraged you to start playing hockey?

– When I was eight years old, my father took me to Daugavpils, where at that time an arena had been recently opened, and already before my first practice he bought me a full equipment – by then I never once had skated, but I learned that fairly quick and I really enjoyed it. Before turning to ice hockey, for several years I attended Judo lessons.

Do you consider yourself an alumnus of Metalurgs Liepaja or Daugavpils hockey school? After all, you have spent reasonable time in both of the cities.

– Despite the fact that I gained a lot also during my time in Liepaja, I am without a doubt an alumnus of Daugavpils hockey school, because that is where I started to play and that is where I grew up as a hockey player.

When you returned to Daugavpils, you had just turned 16 years old – did you expect to make the roster of DHK Latgale, who played in the Belarusian league, straight away?

– No, but prior 2008-09 I was coached by Jurijs Agureikins, who let me practice and play together with one up to three years older players than myself, which I am truly thankful to him.

How did you feel, when, being 16 years old, you started playing among professionals?

– Straight away I felt the difference between junior and professional hockey. Still, at least in my opinion, I got used to the professional hockey pretty fast, as my teammates helped me a lot, often saying what I ought to do in different situations.

What relationship do you have with Vitalijs Hvorostinins? [Hvorostinins also comes from Preili and now plays for Val-d’Ior Foreurs in the QMJHL]

– Well, I could say that he is my best friend – we grew up together and for a longer time played together. Also now we regularly talk to each other on Skype, encouraging one another and that really helps, when you don’t see your friends too often.

Cinks released from HK Riga

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HK Riga, the farm club of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Dinamo Riga, has announced that it has released 20-year-old Latvian forward Ronalds Cinks from the MHL club.

According to the official statement, he did not meet the expectations and both the coaching staff and Cinks himself agreed on breaking the contract. Unofficial sources, however, have been informing that Cinks was punished for disregarding the disciplinary terms of HK Riga.

In a short conversation with Cinks commented: “That is not true, I was not released for disciplinary violations. During the next few days I will have to sort out, where to practice, in order to maintain my physical form, and as of now I have no idea, where I will pursue my career.”

During the past two seasons Cinks was called up to Dinamo Riga several times and appeared on a total of 20 games, while this season he has played 12 games with HK Riga, posting one goal and adding six assists.

Written by Didzis Rudmanis

October 13, 2010 at 16:43

Freibergs named NAHL Player of the Week

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19-year-old Latvian defenseman Ralfs Freibergs, who is currently playing his second season with the Texas Tornado, has been announced the NAHL South Division Player of the Week.

On Saturday, in a game against Amarillo Bulls, Freibergs posted a NAHL season-high five assists and, with a total of 16 (2+14) points in 11 games Freibergs currently is the leading league’s defenseman in scoring.

Tornado head coach Tony Curtale commented: “I am happy to see Ralfs get this recognition because he has overcome a lot of barriers since arriving late last season from Latvia. He has great vision and has the ability to create offense for his teammates. I believe he is one of the most skilled defensemen in the NAHL and will play at a very high level one day.”

Also Latvian forward Nils Semjonovs is playing in the league and, after six played games with Springfield Jr. Blues, has moved to Aberdeen Wings, in a total of nine played games posting four goals.

Written by Didzis Rudmanis

October 12, 2010 at 16:01

Podzins: Is there a reason to be nervous about?

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In an interview to, Ainars Podzins, who was drafted by Dinamo Riga this summer, thus moving back from Russia to his native Latvia, talks about his time in Riga, about playing for Dinamo and his first game in the KHL. We now present you a fragment of the interview, kindly translated by Alessandro Seren Rosso.

Were you nervous before your first KHL game?

Podzins: “Well, is there a reason to be nervous about? I was brought as the thirteenth forward. I was just watching the game. Though I wasn’t nervous when, during the game against Neftekhimik, they said me: ‘Podzins, get ready, it’s your turn.’ We were winning 6-3. And I got to play two shifts. I am really satisfied about them. I had a shot, I gave a pass, and I played only two minutes. They iced me in the first line with [Mark] Hartigan and [Tomas] Surovy, at [Aleksandrs] Nizivijs’ place. The greatest thing was that they congratulated me more than Karsums, who scored two goals in two games. I could think I won the Olympic Games. I got to the bench and looked at our masseur, and he says ‘Podzins, you did that?’ And everyone from the team congratulated, ‘Bravo Podzins, well done’.”

You’ve got some interesting nicknames.

Podzins: “Yes, they call me ‘Poga’ [meaning a ‘button’ in Latvian], which is similar to my surname. But the most popular is ‘Stallone’, [Vitaly] Karamnov called me that way when he saw me without a jersey for the first time. I’m not that big, but I am well-built.”

Next to whom do you sit in the locker room?

Podzins: “I sit next to veterans, next to [Girts] Ankipans, not far from Nizivijs.

Do you talk more with the younger players?

Podzins: “Oddly enough I don’t. I mostly talk with veterans, especially with Ankipans, we sit next each other. I also try to talk with foreigners, but my English is very bad.”

But do you talk with them?

Podzins: “Yeah, I think [Mark] Hartigan already grow tired of me.”

How come?

Podzins: “For some time we were living at the same hotel, and I didn’t know when we had the practice. So I went to his room, and I saw that he was sleeping. So I excused myself and asked, and he said: ‘in two hours’, then he shut the door. Then later a foreigner asked him: ‘Mark, how did you sleep?’ And he replied: ‘Good, until I was awakened’.”

How do you like Riga?

Podzins: “It’s astounding! In Latvia they love hockey. Can you imagine that someone would ask me an autograph after a game? But if [former NHL star Sandis] Ozolins or Nizivijs arrive, then 30-40 persons would arrive in no time, and they can’t literally get out. They have crazy fans.”

Where do you live?

Podzins: “I live in an apartment in Piņķi at the second floor. At the first floor live other two guys from HK Riga, Martins Jakovlevs and Eriks Sevcenko. Everything is at high level. I can get to the practices on feet and they always bring me to the games.”

Did you have any problems with the language?

Podzins: “It was strange at the start. I went to the locker room and everyone was talking in Latvian. Now I’m used to it. Everyone talks to me in Russian. Practices in both the main team and in the junior teams are run in Russian language. But if I sit with other five Latvians, they talk in their own language. And I literally know only a couple of words.”

Will you learn the language?

Podzins: “I’ve already promised that to the fans! But now I have no time, I’m always playing. It would be easier if everyone would talk to me in Latvian, I’d quickly learn many words.”

You dreamed for the whole life to play for Dinamo. And now you play for them. Is it like you

Podzins: “It’s even better! I’m happy because my dream came true. In spite, I’m the youngest player of the team everyone treats me very well. They take care about everything and you only have to play. The coaches and the players, in both first and junior team, make everything possible so that you can really develop and I’m very grateful for this.”

Zelubovskis for another try-out

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After not being able to sign with both Beibarys Atyrau of Kazakh league and Vastervik IK of Swedish Division 1, Latvian forward Elvis Zelubovskis has now signed a one-week try-out with Lyon, playing in the French Division 2 (third-tier).

Last year Zelubovskis began the season in the Belarusian Extraleague club Gomel, but, after posting 11 points in 29 games, was released mid-season and finished 2009/10 with HK Ozolnieki/Monarhs of the Latvian league. Zelubovskis has decent Latvian and Belarusian Extraleague experience.

After last season, when France was a newly discovered destination for Latvian players, this season Zelubovskis is only the fifth Latvian to join a French club.

Coyotes clinch victory in Riga

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This evening Arena Riga, packed with both fans and journalists from all over the world, hosted the third-ever KHL-NHL game, in which Phoenix Coyotes, without putting much too effort in it, won Dinamo Riga 3:1. The only one to score for Dinamo was Mark Hartigan.

Already since the very first minutes of the game Coyotes had the edge of the game on their side. During the first ten minutes Riga managed to take only one shot on Bryzgalov’s net, but Coyotes managed to turn their dominance into a goal only late in the period, when Taylor Pyatt scored after a rebound from Tellqvist’s pads.

Although also during the beginning of the second period Coyotes still maintained the puck and produced goal-scoring chances, it was the Dinamo Riga, who scored. Right after both team swapped goalies, Brock Trotter set up a goal for Mark Hartigan, who defeated Jason LaBarbera. However, late in the period Petr Prucha regained the lead, scoring the second goal for Phoenix.

During the third period nothing much changed and Dinamo was still clearly outbeaten, the defense of Dinamo was slowly falling apart, which gave an opportunity for Lee Stempniak to score the third goal of the game. If it was not for Chris Holt, who received the game-MVP award, the result could have become embarassing.

This was already the tenth Dinamo Riga game against NHL clubs, as Riga played in several Soviet-NHL series in the 1980’s. Phoenix was the first club in Riga since Montreal Canadiens, who played in Latvia already twenty years ago.

Amur reassigns Sirokovs

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After a meager beginning of the season, Kontinental Hockey League club Amur Khabarovsk has reassigned Latvian forward Aleksejs Sirokovs to its farm club – Amur-2 Khabarovsk of the Russian First (third-tier) league.

Sirokovs already missed couple of the previous games, playing in seven out of eleven games this season. So far Sirokovs managed to score a goal and add another assist. Head coach Sergei Svetlov commented that currently Sirokovs is weaker than other Amur center forwards.

Similarly, Martins Cipulis, who also plays for Amur this season, has began it rather unsuccessfully, having only one assists in eight games and a +/- of -6 at the moment.