Latvian Hockey News Report

By Didzis Rudmanis

Posts Tagged ‘Dinamo Riga

Gomel signs Tribuncovs

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Despite the Kazakh federation’s report that 34-year-old Latvian defender Atvars Tribuncovs has joined Beibarys Atyrau of the Kazakh league, he has signed a contract with Belarussian Extraleague club HC Gomel till the end of this season.

Still, there was some truth about the report – Tribuncovs indeed was willing to join Beibarys, but for some unknown reason it did not work out, and he never arrived at Atyrau. Instead, he joined HC Gomel, having a fantastic debut – in his first game with the club Tribuncovs posted a goal and added two assists.

In the past the 34-year-old defender has played for many seasons in such leagues as Russian Super League, Swedish Elitserien, DEL. He spent also majority of 2008-09 with Dinamo Riga of the KHL. In 2009-10 he played for HC Karlovy Vary of the Czech Extraleague. However, late in the season he was loaned to a Czech 2nd league club and failed to sign a contract during the summer. Before joining HC Gomel, Tribuncovs played several games for HK SMScredit.lv of the Latvian league.

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Tribuncovs and Tjoluskins join Beibarys

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Just several days after Kaspars Astasenko was released from Kazakh league club Beibarys Atyrau, the number of Latvians in the club has been increased to five, with the signing of defenders Atvars Tribuncovs and Sergejs Tjoluskins, reports Kazakh federation’s homepage.

After failing to make the Beibarys Atyrau roster, 27-year-old Latvian Sergejs Tjoluskins signed with Lindlovens IF of the Swedish Division 1, where he played 22 games. Atvars Tribuncovs, however, began the season with HK SMS Credit of the Latvian league. 34-year-old defender in the past has played several seasons in such leagues as Russian Super League, Swedish Elitserien, DEL. He spent also majority of 2008-09 with Dinamo Riga of the KHL.

The very first news on Latvians joining Beibarys appeared in August, when Beibarys held their pre-season camp in Latvia and three Latvians joined the club for a try-out. A little while later another two Latvians joined the camp, but at the end of the camp only Raitums, Birzins and Smirnovs were signed, leaving Elvis Zelubovskis and Sergejs Tjoluskins without a contract. Later on also Kaspars Astasenko joined Beibarys, however he was released from the club after playing 14 games.

Latvians in Kazakhstan: statistics

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As Kazakhstan is a country far, far away, the information about the three Latvians playing for Beibarys Atyrau is usually far from being easily found, however recently some team statistics were released, making it possible for us to evaluate Latvian performance so far.

GP GAA SVS% TOI
G 33 Martins Raitums 16 1.54 94.17 974.28

Martins Raitums, who was presented in summer as one of the biggest names to join the Kazakh league so far, is currently the starting goalie of Beibarys. Still, the second goalie Vadim Seliverstov has played a solid amount (14) of games too. And, no matter in how competitive league a goalie is playing, a SVS% of 94.17 is still a very respectable figure.

GP G A P PIM +/-
D 29 Kaspars Astasenko 14 1 1 2 24 -1

The 35-year-old Latvian defender was released from the club already more than a week ago. His return to the professional ice hockey, after not playing for the whole 2009-10, didn’t turn out as successfully as he might have wished. Earlier in the season he did not play at all, in order to regain his form, however after 14 games played he was released from the club. It is said that the reason behind it was Astasenko’s lack of attitude.

GP G A P PIM +/-
D 10 Ricards Birzins 10 0 0 0 6 +1

Latvian defender Birzins, who played for Dinamo Riga farm club last season, has found himself dressed for only 10 out of 30 Beibarys games so far and he is one of seven Beibarys defender with a positive +/-. This season there have been a total of 13 defenders playing for Beibarys.

GP G A P PIM +/-
F 21 Andrejs Smirnovs 22 2 7 9 36 +3

27-year-old Andrejs Smirnovs is a regular player on Beibarys roster, and on the team’s top scoring list he is ninth. The team’s top scorer currently is Andrei Pelevin with 27 points.

Dinamo releases Mikus

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Kontinental Hockey League club Dinamo Riga has released Slovakian center forward Juraj Mikus, who joined Dinamo late in September, after failing to make the Spartak Moscow roster due to import quota. Now, however, Mikus is rejoining Spartak.

Juraj Mikus was a part of Spartak’s pre-season camp, however he failed to make the roster, because of the import quota set by the league. Instead, in late September he joined Dinamo Riga. He was signed so that Brock Trotter could play his primary position – left wing, but, unfortunately, Mikus performance wasn’t as good as expected, he was largely disliked by the Dinamo supporters and, finally, was released from the club. Mikus earned 5 (3+2) points in 22 games with Dinamo.

Now, as Spartak already for some time has a new head coach Igors Pavlovs (Milos Riha was fired) and as the club has released Martin Cibak and Jaroslav Obsut, a vacant foreigner place on the team’s roster opened up.

Written by Didzis Rudmanis

November 29, 2010 at 20:22

Mustukovs: I don’t see myself playing for the national team

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Ervins Mustukovs is a 26-year-old Latvian goalie, who is one of the top Latvian goaltenders at the moment. He is currently having a tremendous season with the Sheffield Steelers of the EIHL. For the previous two seasons he served as the third goalie of KHL’s Dinamo Riga, but never managed to gain the trust of the head coach Julius Supler, only playing two games for the club. Earlier this year Mustukovs also made the Latvian Olympic roster at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but, serving as the second goalie behind Edgars Masalskis back, failed to spend even a minute in the crease.

In this interview Ervins talks not only about the current season with Sheffield, but also touches the issues of Latvian national team, Dinamo Riga, his own future.

You signed the contract with Sheffield already in May, which somehow indicates that you had decided to leave Dinamo already prior the end of the season. Is it true?

– Yes, it is true. Even though I was willing to play for Dinamo Riga and prove myself, I did not manage to see that chance coming. I had no other options but to search for a new club where to play, as I did not want to stay as the third goalie of Dinamo Riga already for the third straight season. Clubs from several leagues (also Kazakh league and French Ligue Magnus) offered me contracts, however, I gave preference to the EIHL and the Sheffield Steelers.

What were the reasons which led you to playing abroad?

– Well, they were all well-known – despite the fact that I wanted to play for Dinamo Riga, I did not gain the trust of the coaching staff. I did not want to stay without playing anymore, and chose to try my luck elsewhere in Europe. Sheffield came up with an offer of decent wage, great city, arena, league and, more importantly, many shots on goals, as well as the ability to play regularly, which, in my opinion, are the most important issues for a goaltender.

When you signed the contract with Steelers, did you imagine that the season would turn out as successfully as it has done?

– To be honest, at that moment I did not really think about that. For me the most important part was to find a club where I could play regularly. Sheffield offered that. I hoped that I would be able to give a taste of my quality, but you could never know, how it would actually turn out.

How would you evaluate the level of EIHL, compared to the Belarusian Extraleague, where you played previously?

– The level is great, I am not complaining. I believe that for a goaltender it is way better and interesting to play in EIHL rather than Belarus – there are way more games, many shots on goals and it is always more breathtaking, when there is a solid Canadian goalie standing in the opposite net. I am not ready to judge the players, however, I know that the hockey is very much different than the one played in Belarus – here the game is more aggressive, all the players are rushing forward, shooting from every angle imaginable, playing with only three shifts. Yesterday’s game between Metalurgs Liepaja and Coventry Blaze [Continental Cup third round, Coventry won 6:1] was not the easiest one for Liepaja. Obviously, we can not evaluate two leagues out of this single game, but, clearly, people in England know how to play ice hockey.

Recently Ben Simon, the head coach of Steelers, announced that he would not trade you for any other goaltender of the EIHL. What does it mean to you? Also, do you believe you would maintain the trust of Simon, if you played several rather unsuccessful games in a row?

– Similarly to every other goaltender, it means a lot, when a coach trusts you. Despite that, I try not to think about that too much. I want to play hockey, and that is currently the most important thing. Coaches in this league avoid saying anything negative to their goalies, it was the same in the ECHL, yet I do not live in an euphoria because of that. After all, you can never know, how the season will develop. The attitude towards you can always change according to your performance.

In early October you had a chance to play against Boston Bruins. Why did the coach decide to  send you in the net just three minutes before the regulation?

– It was a decision made by him. Probably because I took the trip to Belfast and coach gave me a chance to appear on the scoresheet.

If the game was held in Sheffield, would you have started it in the net, not on the bench?

– If the game was held in Sheffield, most likely I would have been standing in the net. Still, it is only normal, as every coach in the most crucial games plays a goalie, who he trusts the most and who he knows the best. Why should a Belfast Giants coach send a Latvian goalie in the net, if he has a solid British national team player Stephen Murphy on the roster?

Sheffield has the largest arena in the EIHL – do they have also the best fans?

– No, I will not state it only because I play in Sheffield. Still, several EIHL teams have really great fans and Steelers is not an exception. Also Nottingham and Belfast have great fans. All these cities have wonderful arenas and a great support, where their fans follow to their team away tours even to the most distant cities. I would really thank them about that. It is always pleasant to play in front of overcrowded arenas.

You made the Latvian Olympic roster at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, however it was Martins Raitums and Edgars Lusins, who made the 2010 World championship roster. Where do you currently see yourself in the context of the national team?

– I am really not willing to recall Vancouver. I was glad that I made the roster, but right there the positive memories about the Olympic Games ended. As soon as the Olympics finished, I knew that Znaroks would not choose me for the World championship in Mannheim. Frankly speaking, currently I do not see myself in the national team at all. Nobody has ever talked to me about that and it does not seem that anything is going to change. I have played in QMJHL, SPHL, ECHL, which somebody might think requires no effort, however I will reveal a secret – for a Latvian goalie on his own it is not that easy – that is why I was never clear, when nobody from the national team took any interest in me. If any of the younger goalies played in any of those leagues, he would be on the national team already for some time now and made a national hero.

How do you evaluate the fact that the Latvian national team did not use the November break to play any exhibition games, in order to test the nearest reserves of the team?

– I do not believe that such tournaments or exhibition games are necessary at all, and they are the least necessary in November. Everything is decided already before these games anyway. If a game would be won, it would be forgotten easily, however if you let in some unfortunate mistakes, everybody would remember it and remember it for a long time coming. A great example – when I had a 1:0 shutout against the Danish team, nobody cared, as ‘they were only Danes – not that much of shots on goal, etc.’, however, when I let four goals in against the Germans [right before leaving to Vancouver Olympics], people were willing to send me home. People came up with the most unrealistic things, saying that I lack attitude, regular playing, that I do not talk to the teammates. After all, who cares in what form a player is in November, if he has to play in April? Until then everything can change.

Three years ago in an interview you said that the younger goalies should take any opportunity to move to the North American leagues. Now, when your North American career is at least temporarily finished and you have gained more experience, do you still think that way?

– I still believe the younger goalies should go to North America, however they should do it only if they actually have an opportunity to play there at a decent level. It is rather hard to make it even to the SPHL, as they really do not need a Latvian goalie, who they have never heard of. As long as you are not head and shoulders above, they will still prefer a native goalie.

I would like to think that EIHL is not the top of your ambitions? How do you currently look towards the future – where would you like to see yourself playing in three, four seasons?

– I would certainly love to play for Dinamo. That would be very joyful and a great honour, but you can never know, how everything will turn out. A top European league would be fine as well.

I wish you the very best!

Neftekhimik signs Maris Jass

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Kontinental Hockey League club Neftekhimik Niznekamsk has signed 25-year-old Latvian defender Maris Jass, who played for HK 36 Skalica of the Slovakian Extraleague.

After the previous season, when Neftekhimik finished fourth in the Eastern Conference, the team is currently struggling to maintain its place in the play-off zone, as it is currently placed eight with 35 points in 24 games. The head coach Vladimir Krikunov, who played for Dinamo Riga in the 1980’s, decided that a change was desirable – as Jass was signed, Neftekhimik released Slovakian defender Peter Mikus from the team.

Maris Jass has already previously played in Russia – in 2005-06, when the KHL was not yet established, he played 14 games for Lada Togliatti. For the most of his career Jass played for Metalurgs Liepaja – a Latvian club, which had and has been playing in the Eastern European Hockey League (folded in 2004), as well as both Belarussian Extraleague and Latvian league. He has also played for HC Slavia Praha of the Czech Extraleague, however since the beginning of 2009-10 he was playing in the Slovak Extraleague.

He has also appeared on international stage, playing for the Latvian national team at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, as well as two U20 and one U18 Championship.

Blinovs joins Metalurgs Liepaja

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After being released from Belarussian Extraleague club Shakhter Soligorsk, Latvian forward Viktors Blinovs has signed a contract for the rest of the season with Latvian club Metalurgs Liepaja, who also takes part in the Belarussian championship, reports ICEBOX.

Metalurgs Liepaja is currently seventh in the Belarussian champinship, while Blinovs previous club Shakhter is just one point ahead. Metalurgs Liepaja top scorer at the moment is the 1990-born Gunars Skvorcovs, who has scored 13 points in 24 games. He is closely followed by Edijs Brahmanis, Vladimirs Mamonovs and Ukrainian Artem Gnidenko.

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

Between 2000 and 2004 Blinovs had already played for Metalurgs Liepaja. Viktors has been playing in the Belarussian Extraleague now already since 2006/07 and has experienced playing for Neman Grodno, Gomel, HK Riga 2000, Metallurg Zhlobin, Shakhter Soligorsk and now also Metalurgs Liepaja. In the first half of 2008/09, Blinovs played 24 games for the KHL club Dinamo Riga.