Latvian Hockey News Report

By Didzis Rudmanis

Posts Tagged ‘Metalurgs Liepaja

Latvian Legion in Kazakhstan

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If during the past season five Latvian players played for Kazakh club Beibarys Atyrau, this season the number of Latvian players in the Kazakh league will certainly grow.

As of now, both Martins Raitums and Andrejs Smirnovs have signed new contracts with Beibarys Atyrau and will stay with the club also for this season. Let me just remind you that Raitums had a tremendous season with Beibarys last year and at the end of the season received the best goaltender award. Similarly to last season, also this year Beibarys is holding its camp in Latvia, so, as a result, the number of Latvian players there is rumoured to be as high as 7 players (including ex-Metalurgs Liepaja players Valerijs Filimonovs and Maris Gravitis).

Four other Latvian players are currently rumoured to have a try-out contract with Kazakh clubs as well. Forwards Edijs Brahmanis and Vladimirs Mamonovs are said to be in the Sary-Arka Karaganda camp in Italy, while defensemen Edmunds Kniksts and Sergejs Tjoluskins are both fighting for a place on Arlan Kokshetau roster.

Notably, six ex-Metalurgs Liepaja players currently have try-out contracts with Kazakh league clubs. The main reason behind that is the tough financial situation of the Latvian club. Just after the previous season club even announced that it might lack finances, in order to compete in the Belarussian Extraleague. Currently the team’s average age is under 21 and during its first pre-season exhibition games it has lost to Kazakh VHL club Kazzinc-Torpedo twice (1:4 and 0:2).

Latvian U20 set for World Juniors

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Yesterday Latvian U20 national team head coach Leonids Beresnevs announced those 22 players, who will set off for Babruisk, Belarus already tomorrow morning, in order to begin the tournament on December 13 and eventually try to return to the Elite Division for next year.

In order to do that, Latvian team will have to beat not only Japanese, Italian, Great Britain and Ukrainian teams, but also its main rivals for the victory in the tournament – Belarussian team, who will host the tournament. Belarussian team this year consists of many already professional players, of whom majority play in the Belarussian league. In combination with the home ice advantage, Belarussians have slightly higher chances of winning the tournament.

Unfortunately, two potential Latvian team participants withdrew from the pre-tournament training camp, as they got injured. Both of them would most likely made the roster – first one of the is HK Riga players Vladislavs Dobrenkijs, but the second one – Rolands Vigners who plays for Reims of the French Division 1 and did magnificently well during the both exhibition tournaments earlier this season.

Yesterday, during the press conference assistant coach Aigars Cipruss also commented that during this season Kristians Pelss (Edmonton Oil Kings) game has improved a lot, and that he has already benefited from crossing the pond last summer.

Tournament schedule:

December 13 Great Britain
December 14 Ukraine
December 16 Japan
December 17 Italy
December 19 Belarus*

*- the game starts at 17:00 GMT and will be broadcasted by LTV7, so there is a slight chance that the game could be streamed somewhere.

Latvian U20 roster:

G Kristers Gudlevskis 1992 HK Riga MHL
G Janis Kalnins 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja-2 Latvia
D Edgars Dikis 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Ralfs Freibergs 1991 Texas Tornado NAHL
D Martins Jakovlevs 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Karlis Kalvitis 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Martins Porejs 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Arturs Salija 1992 HK Riga MHL
D Eriks Sevcenko 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Raimonds Tubelis 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja-2 Latvia
F Maris Bicevskis 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Elvijs Biezais 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Maris Dilevka 1992 Metalurgs Liepaja Belarus
F Zemgus Girgensons 1994 Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL
F Girts Jansons 1991 Muik Hockey Finland4
F Egils Kalns 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja Belarus
F Ronalds Kenins 1991 GC Kusnacht Lions NLB
F Arturs Mickevics 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Kristians Pelss 1992 Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
F Davis Straupe 1992 HK Riga MHL
F Juris Upitis 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Bruno Zabis 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja-2 Latvia

Latvian U20 candidates announced

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Latvian U20 national team head coach Leonids Beresnevs has announced those 30 players, who will take part in the pre-World Junior Championship training camp in Jelgava from December 6 until December 11.

The final roster of the team will be announced on December 10. Already the next day the team will leave for Babruysk, Belarus, where on December 13 will play already against British U20 national team.

List of the candidates:

G Janis Auzins 1991 Zemgale Latvia
G Kristers Gudlevskis 1992 HK Riga MHL
G Janis Kalnins 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja-2 Latvia
D Reinis Demiters 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Edgars Dikis 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Kristers Freibergs 1992 Metalurgs Liepaja Belarus
D Ralfs Freibergs 1991 Texas Tornado NAHL
D Martins Jakovlevs 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Karlis Kalvitis 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Martins Porejs 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Arturs Salija 1992 HK Riga MHL
D Eriks Sevcenko 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Raimonds Tubelis 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja-2 Latvia
F Maris Bicevskis 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Elvijs Biezais 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Maris Dilevka 1992 Metalurgs Liepaja Belarus
F Vladislavs Dobrenkijs 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Maksims Firsovs 1991 SK LSPA/Riga Latvia
F Zemgus Girgensons 1994 Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL
F Girts Jansons 1991 Muik Hockey Finland4
F Egils Kalns 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja Belarus
F Ronalds Kenins 1991 GC Kusnacht Lions NLB
F Edgars Kurmis 1993 HK Riga MHL
F Arturs Mickevics 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Kristians Pelss 1992 Edmonton Oil Kings WHL
F Nils Semjonovs 1991 Aberdeen Wings NAHL
F Davis Straupe 1992 HK Riga MHL
F Juris Upitis 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Rolands Vigners 1991 Reims French Division 1
F Bruno Zabis 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja Belarus

Metalurgs finishes last at Continental Cup

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For the past couple of days Latvian club Metalurgs Liepaja participated in the Continental Cup third round, which was held in Rouen. Unfortunately, Liepaja lost in all three of its games, finishing last in the group. The winner of the group (Rouen) qualified for the Continental Cup Final Four.

Throughout the history of Continental Cup the only Latvian club to play in the Final Four was HK Riga 2000, who finished in the second place in both 2006 and 2008. However, in 2008 the tournament was held in Riga, so that HK Riga 2000 had a guaranteed place there.

Final standings:

GP W OTW OTL L GD Pts
Rouen 3 2 0 1 0 12:6 7
Coventry Blaze 3 2 0 0 1 15:9 6
Cracovia Krakow 3 1 1 0 1 10:12 5
Metalurgs Liepaja 3 0 0 0 3 7:17 0

Metalurgs Liepaja games:

November 26 Coventry Blaze 1:6
November 27 Rouen 1:4
November 28 Cracovia Krakow 5:7

Metalurgs Liepaja player statistics:

GP G A P PIM
Vladimirs Mamonovs 3 2 1 3 0
Edgars Brancis 3 2 1 3 2
Juris Stals 3 1 1 2 4
Yuri Navarenko 3 0 2 2 27
Viktors Blinovs 3 1 0 1 0
Edmunds Kniksts 3 1 0 1 4
Janis Andersons 3 0 1 1 0
Toms Zeltins 3 0 1 1 0
Arturas Katulis 3 0 1 1 2
Nerius Alisauskas 3 0 1 1 2
Vents Feldmanis 3 0 1 1 4
Kristers Freibergs 3 0 0 0 0
Gunars Skvorcovs 3 0 0 0 0
Vitalijs Pavlovs 3 0 0 0 0
Maris Gravitis 3 0 0 0 0
Lauris Bajaruns 3 0 0 0 2
Koba Jass 3 0 0 0 2
Valeri Bobkov 3 0 0 0 2
Renars Demiters 3 0 0 0 4
Valerijs Filimonovs 3 0 0 0 4
GP GAA TOI
Maris Jucers 3 5.71 126:03
Dmitrijs Zabotinskis 2 5.56 53:57

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.

Latvian U20 finishes second at the Sino Cup

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Yesterday the 2010 Sino Cup finished, as the last two games were held, despite the fact that Latvian U20 team had already played it’s four games by November 12. Latvian team has finished tournament in the second place, right after Belarussian team.

Latvian team started the tournament with an unconvincing 3:2 shootout win over the hosts – Danish U20 team. On the next day Latvians lost 0:3 to Belarussians, which will be the main contestant for the win at the 2011 World U18 Championships in Division 1, but then Latvians beat Finland 3:2 in the shootout – that wasn’t a huge upset, as the Finnish U20 first team is currently at the Four Nations Tournament in Prague. The last game will probably remain as the most memorable of this tournament – a 9:0 run-over the Austrian U20 team.

In the end, Belarussians had eight points and finished the tournament in first place, while Latvians, Danes and Finns had all seven points, and Latvians ended up in the second place only because of a better goal difference. Ronalds Kenins, who scored 6 (2+4) points, was the leading scorer of the whole tournament.

Latvian U20 results:

3:2 SO Denmark November 9
0:3 Belarus November 10
3:2 SO Finland November 11
9:0 Austria November 12

Latvian U20 statistics:

Player GP G A P PIM YOB Team League
F Ronalds Kenins 4 2 4 6 2 1991 GC Kusnacht Lions NLB
F Maris Dilevka 4 3 2 5 4 1992 Metalurgs Liepaja-2 Latvia
F Rolands Vigners 4 3 0 3 6 1991 Reims French Division 1
F Egils Kalns 4 2 0 2 2 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja Belarus
F Girts Jansons 4 1 1 2 0 1991 Muik Hockey Finland4
F Edgars Kurmis 4 1 1 2 0 1993 HK Riga MHL
F Maksims Firsovs 4 1 1 2 6 1991 SK LSPA/Riga Latvia
D Martins Porejs 4 0 2 2 20 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Martins Jakovlevs 4 0 2 2 4 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Maris Bicevskis 4 0 2 2 4 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Arturs Mickevics 4 0 2 2 6 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Eriks Sevcenko 4 1 0 1 0 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Elvijs Biezais 4 1 0 1 0 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Davis Straupe 4 0 1 1 0 1992 HK Riga MHL
D Kristers Freibergs 4 0 0 0 0 1992 HK Riga MHL
D Edgars Dikis 4 0 0 0 0 1991 HK Riga MHL
D Karlis Kalvitis 4 0 0 0 2 1991 HK Riga MHL
F Raimonds Upenieks 4 0 0 0 8 1992 HK Riga MHL
D Raimonds Tubelis 4 0 0 0 2 1991 Metalurgs Liepaja-2 Latvia
D Reinis Demiters 4 0 0 0 0 1991 HK Riga MHL