Former Falcon competes in second Olympics

Ralfs Freibergs

Ralfs Freibergs

Ben Shanahan and Ben Shanahan

International Career in Latvia

Ralfs Freibergs started his international ice hockey career with the under-18 World Juniors team for Latvia at 16 years old. In the five games he played, he earned his first international point with an assist. He left his debut tournament with an impressive plus/minus goal differential of positive seven. 

Unfortunately, a record of 4-1 and only two goals against in division one, wouldn’t be enough to make it to the championship division the following year. 

Freibergs returned the following year as captain for team Latvia’s World Juniors under-18 team and played for the under-20 team. This time in the under-18 tournament, Latvia’s 4-1 record was good enough to put them in the championship division for the 2010 tournament. Freibergs finished his first World Juniors of the year with one assist in five games with a plus/minus of positive three. 

The under-20 tournament had Latvia battling to not get relegated after going winless in the four group stage games. Latvia avoided relegation by defeating both Germany and Kazakhstan 7-1. Freibergs scored his first international goal against Kazakhstan, he also earned an assist in the tournament and had an even zero plus/minus.

Moving to America

Ralf Freibergs made the transition to the U.S.A in 2009 for the Texas Tornados of the Northern American Hockey League. Both years they made the playoffs, Freibergs was there. In his first season he had one goal and 17 assists in 26 games.

During the offseason of 2010, Latvia returned to the World Juniors and faced relegation once again. This time, their luck ran out as they were on a losing streak until their last game. Even though the wins didn’t show it, Freibergs had his best tournament by far. He had three points on three assists and a negative two plus/minus which wouldn’t be too much of an impressive save for Latvia’s 66 goals against them the whole tournament. 

Following the World Juniors, he returned to the Tornados for his second and final season with them. It was very similar besides the amount of games he’d play: seven goals and 48 assists in 53 games.

At 20 years old, Freibergs competed in one final World Juniors this time in the relegated first division where they sent Ralfs off in style going undefeated to put Latvia back in the championship division for the 2012 next tournament. He finished up his World Juniors career with one goal, two assists and a plus/minus of positive one. His career statistics ended with two goals, eight assists and a positive nine plus/minus in 27 games.

In 2011, he joined a new team, the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League. His assist consistency racked up 35 assists and eight goals in 60 games.

As a Falcon 

Freibergs came to Bowling Green in the fall of 2012. His first season was productive but short, only playing eight games with seven assists and one goal. The Falcons fell in the second round of the CCHA playoffs that year, getting swept by Notre Dame in two games.

Between the time he was on the campus of Bowling Green, Freibergs once again represented Latvia at the 2013 Ice Hockey World Championships. But Latvia did see many games out of the group stage going to four and one. Freibergs ended the tournament with only one point to his name which was an assist.

Freibergs second season saw much more ice time. He played 37 games and accumulated 22 points, three goals and 19 assists. That season, the Falcons would make it all the way to the WCHA final five but lost to Minnesota State, 4-0.

2014 Olympics and post-BGSU

After representing Latvia almost his whole life, Freibergs played on the biggest stage of them all, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Freibergs recorded one point with an assist, and the team couldn’t crack the win column, losing the opener, 1-0, against Switzerland. They dropped the next two games by two goals against Czech Republic and Sweden.

After the games, the undrafted free agent signed with the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL Affiliate St. John Ice Caps, where he played five games and was re-signed to the East Coast Hockey League Ontario Reign. He played in 52 games and registered three goals and 19 assists.

After letting his contract run out in 2015, he returned to Toledo and joined the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL. He had two goals and 27 assists.

Returning to Europe

After the 2015 World championships, Freibergs returned to Latvia to play for the Dinamo Riga of the Kontinental Hockey League. In 38 games, he had one goal and five assists. His year ended with Latvia missing the Olympic cut by two teams and a World Championship.

His time in the KHL was split as Freibergs moved into the Czechia league in the Czech Republic, where he played four years with four different teams making the playoffs in each season. In addition, he would play in three more world championships getting seven assists and zero goals in all three combined.

Now 30 years old and back in the KHL for the Dinamo Riga, Freibergs wasn’t the assist machine he once was but is still a consistent face of Team Latvia. He had five World Juniors and six World Championships and will have two Winter Olympic games under his belt after these games. Latvia dropped their opener to Sweden on Feb. 10  to begin their quest for gold. They have a chance to bounce back as they play Finland on Feb. 11th.