Latvian League preview

Latvian League preview

03 Sep 2013 | Krišjānis Koļesņičenkovs
 

An eventful off-season sees just six clubs playing and a loss of a traditional club as we look to crown a new Champion in the Latvian Virsliga.

 
 
 
 

The off-season started out with a league of nine clubs but the new season will only see the league be played at six. Out is SK Rīga who will not submit a club at the highest level in Latvia, instead the '97 age Group will be playing in the U-20 League, the Ventspils/Tukums project never came together and the big loss, is traditional power Liepājas Metalurgs will not be playing this season due to financial problems.

But enough of who isn't able to play this season, after the loss of DHK Latgale last season, the city gets a club back in so far, just named HK Daugavpils. The club will be made up of former players of DHK, those who didn't move on or are returning again after a season off and mostly kids who attend the school. Also incoming is HK Kurbads, a club who played in the Latvian amateur leagues and will be reinforced will many of the top players from the Champions SMScredit.lv. Having the fire power of Undelis, Cinks, Lobachev, Maslovskis, and Kļujevskis, getting Saviels from the Ukrainian League, Kurbads is easily my pick to run away with the league.

Never to be underestimated and always the club people tend to cheer for come the play-offs is HK Ozolnieki/MONARCH, the club who for the past few years has been top club only to come play-off time get knocked off my Liepājas Metalurgs because they brought in their reinforcements from the BOL. Ozolnieki will, as before, be the oldest club in the league, made up of mostly veteran players and so few juniors, they easily have an average age over 30, compared to the rest of the league who hovers around 20. Ozolnieki had a modest year last season finishing 3rd and then losing in the Bronze series. Lacking the firepower they had in years past, the club will look for Romanovskis, Glazkovs, Jerofejevs and Feoktistovs to help carry the load. Ozolnieki will play the role of a dark horse, able to knock off anybody but will it be enough?

HK Zemgale/JLSS remains the club I always have hope for in doing something but in the end always letting me down, can really score but doesnt know how to keep them out of the net. Finishing 5th last season, the second most goals scored only behind SMScredit but also a very large gap in goals against compared to the top clubs. Repšs will look to be the starter for them, he was pretty disappointing in net last season and with the 17-year old Nuka as his back-up, and a very young defence, will they once again bleed goals that cost them during the play-offs? If Repšs can play solid enough and the defence stay in better shape this season, they could very likely pull some surprises along the way, especially if the get Ozolnieki in the play-offs.

The finalists of last season Dinamo/Juniors (new name for HK Juniors), its hard to judge if they will be able to repeat what they did last season. With a large part of the team gone and them being the youngest club in the league at around 17, nobody being older then 19, they will once again have to play lock down defence and get solid goalkeeping. Čopejs returns to Latvia after spending the past two season in Finland and Sweden, he will be looked at as the stater, his two back-ups both played for SK Rīga last season. Goldmanis is the only defender returning, him being the oldest along with Ričards Simsons who had himself a decent time in Germany will look to lead this group of defenders who know each other very well playing together with SK Rīga, though the same group who also gave up the most goals.

The league sees a few question marks in the middle of the pack, Kurbads should be a lock for the 1st and free pass, given history Ozolnieki will take the 2nd seed with the rest falling in line depending on how well their defence holds..or doesnt hold. Everybody will get a chance in the play-offs, the Top 2 get a free pass to the Semi-finals while 3-6 will play a Best of 5 in the First Round. The Semi-finals are also a Best of 5 while the Finals are once again a Best of 7.

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