STSZlogo

Falcons' Freibergs named to Latvian Olympic hockey team (1-7-14) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kevin Gordon Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor   
Tuesday, 07 January 2014 12:59
freibergs
BG's Ralfs Freibergs shoots the puck during last Friday's win against Alabama-Huntsville (Photo: Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com)
Bowling Green sophomore defenseman Ralfs Freibergs has been selected to play for Latvia in next month’s Winter Olympics.
The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder learned of his selection Sunday after returning from the Falcons’ Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at Alabama-Huntsville.
Freibergs, an offensive defenseman who skates well, is the Falcons’ third-leading scorer with 16 points on one goal and 15 assists. He also has an on-ice rating of plus-3.
Freibergs, who is from Riga, Latvia, played for his native country in the World Championships in 2013.
“It’s a great honor,” said Freibergs, who is 24. “It’s something you always dream about, but you never expect it to happen. I’m very, very excited to be playing in the Olympics and to be a part of the entire Olympic experience.”
“It’s a great honor for him,” BG coach Chris Bergeron said. “We’re really, really excited for him.”
Freibergs played in all seven games in the World Championships, totaling one assist.
“That was a pretty good tournament for me and I started thinking I might have a chance at the Olympics,” said Freibergs, who quarterbacked the team’s power play in the tournament. “Before the World Championships, I really didn’t think I had a chance.”
Freibergs said he was the youngest of the eight defensemen named to the team and is the eighth defenseman on the depth chart.
“Being the eighth defensemen, there’s not a lot of pressure on me right away, maybe I play, maybe I don’t,” Freibergs said. “I don’t know what the coaches have planned for me, but I’ll do whatever it takes to help the team.”
One of his teammates is former NHL star defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, who had 167 goals and 397 assists in 875 NHL games from 1992-2007.
The 41-year-old Ozolish is still playing for Riga Dynamo in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League, an international professional league.
“The Olympics are something you always watch growing up and they’re something you always dream about playing in, but you never really expect to it happen,” Freibergs  said. “When it does happen, the feeling is indescribable. I’m very, very happy right now.”
Freibergs said he hadn’t heard from any Latvian hockey officials until his selection.
“I really hadn’t talked to them much,” he added. “It came out of the blue, but that’s normal for Latvia. They never call you until something happens.”
Freibergs is the only current NCAA player on an Olympic roster, but there are 29 former NCAA players in the Olympics.
Most of the Olympic rosters are filled with current NHL players.
“Playing on the same ice against NHL players, especially many of them being stars, I will try to learn as much as I can can from those players to improve my game,” Freibergs said. “And being on the same team, even in the same lockerroom as Sandish, who has been a big idol of mine and a hero back home, will be a great learning experience.”
Bergeron said Freibergs will leave for the Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Feb. 2, the day after the Falcons finish a home series against Michigan Tech.
Bergeron said Freibergs would miss BG’s series at Alaska-Anchorage Feb. 14-15 and its exhibition against the U.S. National Development U18 Team Feb. 21. The Falcons are idle Feb. 7-8.
Bergeron hopes Freibergs will return for BG’s series at Northern Michigan Feb. 28-March 1.
The Olympic hockey tournament runs Feb. 12-Feb. 23. The preliminary round ends Feb. 16, with qualification games for the quarterfinals set for Feb. 18.
The medal round starts Feb. 19, concluding with the gold-medal game on Feb. 23.
Latvia’s pool games are against Switzerland Feb. 12, the Czech Republic Feb. 14 and Sweden Feb. 15.
With a population of just over two million, Latvia is a big underdog in the tournament. Latvia is in the tournament for the fourth straight Olympics.
Latvia’s head coach is Buffalo Sabres’ coach Ted Nolan. It’s only NHLer is forward Zemgus Girgensons, a first-round draft pick of the Sabres in 2012.
“The entire Olympic atmosphere will be a great thing to be a part of,” Freibergs said. “Everyone will be talking about the Olympics. I’m looking forward to representing my country as well as I can and enjoying the total experience.”
Sandis Ozolinsh, who had 167 goals and 397 assists in 875 NHL games from 1992-2007.
The 41-year-old Ozolish is still playing for Riga Dynamo in the Russian-based Kontinental Hockey League, an international professional league.
“The Olympics are something you always watch growing up and they’re something you always dream about playing in, but you never really expect to it happen,” Freibergs  said. “When it does happen, the feeling is indescribable. I’m very, very happy right now.”
Freibergs said he hadn’t heard from any Latvian hockey officials until his selection.
“I really hadn’t talked to them much,” he added. “It came out of the blue, but that’s normal for Latvia. They never call you until something happens.”
Freibergs is the only current NCAA player on an Olympic roster, but there are 29 former NCAA players in the Olympics.
Most of the Olympic rosters are filled with current NHL players.
“Playing on the same ice against NHL players, especially many of them being stars, I will try to learn as much as I can can from those players to improve my game,” Freibergs said. “And being on the same team, even in the same lockerroom as Sandish, who has been a big idol of mine and a hero back home, will be a great learning experience.”
Bergeron said Freibergs will leave for the Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Feb. 2, the day after the Falcons finish a home series against Michigan Tech.
Bergeron said Freibergs would miss BG’s series at Alaska-Anchorage Feb. 14-15 and its exhibition against the U.S. National Development U18 Team Feb. 21. The Falcons are idle Feb. 7-8.
Bergeron hopes Freibergs will return for BG’s series at Northern Michigan Feb. 28-March 1.
The Olympic hockey tournament runs Feb. 12-Feb. 23. The preliminary round ends Feb. 16, with qualification games for the quarterfinals set for Feb. 18.
The medal round starts Feb. 19, concluding with the gold-medal game on Feb. 23.
Latvia’s pool games are against Switzerland Feb. 12, the Czech Republic Feb. 14 and Sweden Feb. 15.
With a population of just over two million, Latvia is a big underdog in the tournament. Latvia is in the tournament for the fourth straight Olympics.
Latvia’s head coach is Buffalo Sabres’ coach Ted Nolan. It’s only NHLer is forward Zemgus Girgensons, a first-round draft pick of the Sabres in 2012.
“The entire Olympic atmosphere will be a great thing to be a part of,” Freibergs said. “Everyone will be talking about the Olympics. I’m looking forward to representing my country as well as I can and enjoying the total experience.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 January 2014 12:32
 

Front Page Stories

Market Square already bustling with business
07/26/2014 | MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor
article thumbnail

Market Square in BG along Wooster Street. (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune) Market S [ ... ]


Young man goes west to further his acting career
07/26/2014 | DAVID DUPONT Arts & Entertainment Editor
article thumbnail

Justin Betancourt (left) and Jeffrey Guion perform. (Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune) J [ ... ]


Other Front Page Articles