Latvian Hockey News Report

By Didzis Rudmanis

Posts Tagged ‘Latvian national team

Raitums among leaders of Kazakh league

leave a comment »

Latvian goaltender Martins Raitums who plays for the Beibarys Atyrau and is a candidate for the Latvian national team World championship roster is currently leading the Kazakh league regarding both the goals against average and save percentage.

Kazakh media also note that the coaching staff of Ertis Pavlodar must be biting their elbows, as in the past summer the first rumours told that Raitums is about to join Ertis, however the club chose to sign Slovakian Stanislav Petrik instead. Petrik is not among the leading goalkeepers in the league. With the back-up goalie in the form of Ukrainian national team player Vadim Seliverstov, Beibarys goalie line is considered to be the best in the league.

Currently Raitums has played 20 games, helping the team to win in 15 of them, and posting a goals against average of 1.68 pucks. Raitums has also reflected 93.43 percent of the shots and had two shutouts.

Advertisements

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

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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.

Berzins makes some company to Saulietis in HPK

leave a comment »

Finnish SM league club HPK has made two announcements today – Latvian forward Kaspars Saulietis, who was in the club for a try-out, has signed a one-year contract, but another Latvian Armands Berzins, who played parts of past two seasons with Dinamo Riga, has joined the club for a try-out.

Armands Berzins played full 2008/09 with the Dinamo Riga. He was third line center between Lauris Darzins and Mikelis Redlihs. The line had great chemistry, as all three had played together also in Latvian national team and HK Riga 2000, however Armands had one disadvantage – throughout the years he became too slow for his line partners. Dinamo Riga signed center Martin Kariya for 2009/10 and Berzins not only lost his spot on the third, but also on the fourth line, as fourth line center often was 1990-born Ronalds Cinks (KHL requires an U20 player on the roster, if the team is willing to play four full lines).

Berzins and Saulietis are not the first Latvian in HPK. In 2005/06, when HPK became the league champion, both Janis Sprukts and Kaspars Astasenko were on the roster, but during the 1990’s also Rodrigo Lavins and Vjaceslavs Fanduls spent one season with the club.

Hermes sign Purins and Gricinskis

leave a comment »

Finnish Suomi-Sarja (third tier) club Hermes, where five Latvian where trying to earn a spot on the team’s roster, decided to sign two of them – defender Gints Purins and forward Gatis Gricinskis. Both players signed a one-year contract with the club. Renars Undelis is still with the club, while Janis Bullitis has been released.

Still, they are only few of the Latvians, currently for a try-out in Finnish clubs. Edgars Cermnihs and Vadims Vabiscevics are still trying to impress the coaching staff of S-Kiekko (Suomi-sarja). Older brother of Gints Purins, Janis, is currently fighting for a spot on the Mestis (second thier) club Kiekko-Vantaa roster. Also Latvian national team forward Kaspars Saulietis is pursuing his try-out at HPK of SM-liiga.

Outside Finland, Elvis Zelubovskis is for a try-out in Vastervik IK of the Swedish Divison 1, but the 17-year-old is currently in Salzburg, trying to earn a spot on the second team’s roster.

Third Latvian joins TKH Torun

leave a comment »

39-year-old Latvian veteran Andrejs Ignatovics has joined Polish club TKH Torun. Latvian forward spent previous season with Brest of French 2nd league.

During his long career Ignatovics has played in seven World Championships for Latvian national team, but his career highlight is the 2001/02 season, which he spent in Djurgarden of Swedish Elitserien.

Andrejs is joining already two Latvians at the club – Toms Bluks and Edgars Adamovics. Between 2007 and 2009 all three of them played together in ASK Ogre.

TKH Torun will soon begin a three team tournament, whose winner will qualify for a spot in Polish league.

Dinamo releases four players

with 3 comments

Dinamo Riga has made their second cuts and, as a result, Kenneth Bergqvist, Eriks Ozollapa, Sergejs Pecura and Igor Biryukov have been released from the team. In the same time, Juris Upitis and Raimonds Vilkoits will continue to prepare for the season with HK Riga.

The amount of players with try-out contracts has decreased largely and currently only Edgars Lusins, Vitaly Karamnov, Ainars Podzins, Juraj Simek and Juris Stals have a contract for the next season. Still, only Vitaly Karamnov was on the roster in yesterday’s exhibition game (Lusins was dressed as the second goalie).

Another player currently still with the team is 19-year-old defender Martins Jakovlevs, who is not likely to win a spot on the roster. However, in case on injuries, he might be a great call-up, because he has born in 1991, which makes him U20 also for the upcoming season – in order to dress four full lines in the KHL, at least one of the players must be U20.

While Kenneth Bergqvist showed rather disappointing performance at the yesterday’s game, Eriks Ozollapa and Igor Biryukov did not even have a chance to show themselves in front of the fans. The fact that Sergejs Pecura has also been released is a little bit more surprising, as he played four games for Dinamo in 2008/09, but, prior 2009/10, was traded to Krylia Sovetov for rights to Latvian Ainars Podzins. At the end of the previous season he even played for Latvian national team at the World Championships.