Latvian Hockey News Report

By Didzis Rudmanis

Posts Tagged ‘Julius Supler

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!

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Dinamo Riga roster presented

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A week after the beginning of Dinamo Riga pre-season camp, the roster has been officially announced. However, not a single new player was announced.

Unlike players, who drove to Arena Riga with their cars, head coach Julius Supler arrived on a white horse and there was a reason for it – right before the end of the 2009/10 regular season Supler agreed to a dare with captain Sandis Ozolinsh. The dare was for Supler to ride a white horse around the Riga center, if the team reached Western Conference semifinals, which they eventually did, beating SKA St. Petersburg.

However, two players, which were previously listed with Dinamo Riga, were not announced during the roster presentation. For some obvious reasons, sixteen-year-old Ivars Punnenovs was not presented together with Dinamo Riga, eventhough he is currently training together with the team. The other player not presented was Russian Igor Biryukov. As there has been no official announcement regarding him, we can only guess, whether he is still with the team or not.

Meanwhile, players like Ronalds Cinks, Raimonds Vilkoits and Juris Upitis were announced during the HK Riga roster presentation, which might mean that they will not pursue their pre-season preparation together with Dinamo Riga, but, once again, no official confirmation for that.

Also, in an short interview, general manager Normunds Sejejs said that the roster is done and within the next week the latest additions to the team will be announced.

Dinamo Riga roster at the presentation:

G Chris Holt USA
G Edgars Lusins Latvia
D Janis Andersons Latvia
D Oskars Cibulskis Latvia
D Guntis Galvins Latvia
D Martins Jakovlevs Latvia
D Rodrigo Lavins Latvia
D Sandis Ozolins Latvia
D Jekabs Redlihs Latvia
D Krisjanis Redlihs Latvia
D Arvids Rekis Latvia
D Kristaps Sotnieks Latvia
F Girts Ankipans Latvia
F Kenneth Bergqvist Sweden Try-out
F Roberts Bukarts Latvia
F Lauris Darzins Latvia
F Andris Dzerins Latvia
F Mark Hartigan Canada
F Martins Karsums Latvia
F Vitaly Karamnov Russia Try-out
F Gints Meija Latvia
F Aleksandrs Nizivijs Latvia
F Eriks Ozollapa Latvia Try-out
F Sergejs Pecura Latvia Try-out
F Ainars Podzins Latvia Try-out
F Mikelis Redlihs Latvia
F Juraj Simek Switzerland Try-out
F Janis Sprukts Latvia
F Juris Stals Latvia Try-out
F Tomas Surovy Czech Rep.
F Brock Trotter USA

Supler makes the first cuts

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It has been two days, since the Dinamo Riga training camp took off, and the head coach Julius Supler has made his first cut, sending four players to the MHL club HK Riga and releasing another player completely.

The players sent down to HK Riga are defenders Eriks Sevcenko, Aleksandrs Galkins and Ricards Birzins, as well as forward Edgars Lipsbergs. Galkins played for HC Brest of Belarusian league last season, as well as for Keramin-2 Minsk of the Belarusian 2nd league, while the 21-year-old Birzins has been playing in the Dinamo system for the past two seasons already.

Supler also released 25-year-old forward Guntis Dzerins, who missed the whole previous season, because of health issues and was in the camp for a try-out. His younger brother Andris played 17 games for Dinamo last season and is expected to make the team also for 2010/11.

After showing himself at the Washington Capitals Development Camp, it has also been announced that defender Kristaps Sotnieks has arrived at the camp.

Foreigners arrive in Riga, coaching staff is announced

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On Monday American Chris Holt, who has a two year contract with Dinamo Riga, as well as Juraj Simek and Kenneth Bergqvist, who are in Riga for a try-out, have arrived, although the pre-season camp will begin only on July 23.

It is also finally revealed that there is, after all, no try-out contract signed with Bergqvist, however there is a mutual agreement that he will participate in the first part of the training camp, as well as play in a couple of exhibition games. If he would prove himself, a contract will be signed anyway.

After Slovakian Miroslav Miklosovic, who was an assistant coach alongside Artis Abols for Julius Supler for the past two seasons, has decided to continue his coaching career in Slovakia, there was a free vacancy, which is apparently going to be taken by Viktors Ignatjevs, long-time Latvian national team player, who has retired after playing in HYS The Hague last season. He played only in five World Championships, although he could have played also in both 2006 and 2007, but was injured during the training camp both times.

Also the coaching staff of HK Riga has been announced. The head coach will be Leonids Tambijevs, who coached SK Riga/Profs-18 of Latvian league last season. One of his assistant coaches will be Andrejs Banada, who worked with Tambijevs also last season, but the other assistant coach will be Aigars Cipruss, who worked with Dinamo Riga farm club also last season.