NCAA suspends BG's Freibergs (08-02-12)
Written by KEVIN GORDON Sentinel Assistant Sports Editor
Thursday, 02 August 2012 08:44
Bowling Green freshman defenseman Ralfs Freibergs has been suspended for 33 games by the NCAA, the result of his junior hockey team in Latvia playing in a professional league, Falcon hockey coach Chris Bergeron said.
|File photo. BG's Marc Rodriquez (10) skates against Michigan's Lee Moffie (13) near a goal guarded by goalie Shawn Hunwick (31). (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
The Latvian born Freibergs has played junior hockey in the United States the last 2 1/2 seasons, but played in his home country before that.
He played with the Latvian national team in the World Junior Championships in 2009 and 2010 . To prepare the team for the WJC, Latvian officials had the team play in a Latvian professional league.
The NCAA penalized Freibergs one game for each game he played in the league.
"Ultimately, anything professional, when it comes to the NCAA, is something that will have penalties with it," Bergeron said. "We knew, as a program, as a staff, this was a possibility. It's not something out of left field."
BG has 36 regular-season games this season, so Freibergs will be eligible to play the Saturday game of its next-to-last series of the regular season.
Freibergs still can practice and participate in all day-to-day activities with the team. The 21-year-old and his family still are trying to have the suspension reduced by the NCAA.
"He's still coming to Bowling Green," Bergeron said. "He's told us he's committed to coming here and he'll be a part of international student orientation here in a couple of weeks."
The length of the suspension could result in Freibergs being red-shirted this season, allowing him to retain his four seasons of eligibility.
"We'll cross that bridge once we get to that point of the season," Bergeron said.
Freibergs is a highly-skilled offensive defenseman who totaled 16 goals and 99 assists in 137 games in the United States (Junior) Hockey League and North American (Junior) Hockey League.
He was expected to play the point on the BG power play, which scored just 17 goals in 192 attempts last season. His arrival was one of the reasons the power play expected to be significantly improved.
"We think we have more power play people in the mix. It's not going to be based on one person replacing him," Bergeron said. "This is an opportunity for other people to step up and contribute, either from the back end (defense) or the power play in general."
PROGRESS: Bergeron said forwards Marc Rodriguez and Brett Mohler, and defenseman Connor Kucera are "progressing nicely" after their respective shoulder surgeries.
All three are expected to be ready to compete in the team's captains practices, and limited individual and team workouts under NCAA rules once the players return to school later this month.
Rodriguez and Mohler are expected to be among BG's top nine forwards this season, while Kucera is one of the team's best defensemen.
REHAB: Bergeron said BG sophomore goalie Wyatt Galley is "not expected to practice until Christmas" after having surgery to repair his injured hip.
Galley appeared in BG's exhibition contest Oct. 2 last season, but didn't play again. The injury originally was diagnosed as a groin and then later a sports hernia.
"It became a hip issue that was leading to the groin and the hernia," Bergeron said. "The good thing is we think it's repaired. Now, it's the road to recovery and we're trying to figure out what that means moving forward. He's looking at a pretty extensive rehab. This season is in jeopardy as far as he is concerned just because the minimum time sitting out takes him almost to the new year."
The Falcons still have three healthy goalies.
Senior Andrew Hammond remains one of the best goalies in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. He started every game last season, posting a 2.73 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.
Also vying for ice time are junior Scott Zacharias and freshman Tommy Burke. Zacharias appeared in only three games last season, totaling just over 70 minutes.
CHANGE: Game 1 of BG's home series against Notre Dame Dec. 14-15 has been moved to Jan. 15, a Tuesday night.
Bergeron said the switch was made to accommodate an academic event at Notre Dame.