Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Latvian hockey recruits skate to success at Miami

Bruveris stepped up as a goaltender this season with 355 saves for Miami
Bruveris stepped up as a goaltender this season with 355 saves for Miami

Going into the 2023-24 season, the Miami University RedHawks hockey team had only three first-year signees: Tanyon Bajzer, Bruno Bruveris  and Rihards Simanovičs. The latter two signees are both from Riga, Latvia. Their journey across the world to Oxford has been lengthy, but well-deserved.

Bruveris, a goaltender, and Simanovičs, a defenseman, both grew up playing through the same camps, but never played together, as Bruveris is one year older than Simanovičs. Although they didn’t play together, both players found themselves on similar routes to playing for Miami. They played for junior hockey leagues in the U.S. before attending Miami and on Latvia’s World Junior team, where they built an initial connection.

“Our first time playing together was on the U20 World Championship team (Latvia World Juniors),” Simanovičs said. “We’ve created a nice bond and have been living together at Miami.”

Bruveris was the first to commit to Miami in November 2022. When he heard about the coaches' interest in his former teammate, Bruveris put in a good word for him and even encouraged Simanovičs to commit.

“I realized that the coaching staff were asking me questions about Rihards,” Bruveris said. “I described him as a great human being and that he’d make a great impact on Miami hockey. I had a couple of chats with him as well and convinced him to just jump into it.”

Photo by Bella Sagarese | The Miami Student
Simanovičs has seven points and 22 shots in his first season at Miami

Simanovičs also reflected on their experience in committing to Miami and about junior forward Raimonds Vitolins, another player from Latvia. Vitolins shared a similar route to both Bruveris and Simanovičs with his experience in a junior hockey league and for the same Latvian World Junior team before committing to Miami in 2022.

Simanovičs was unsure about committing to Miami, but the other Latvian players ultimately convinced him to give Oxford a shot and committed in April 2023.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

“I saw Bruno and Rai (Raimonds) committed, and it was interesting, but I didn’t know anything about Miami,” Simanovičs said. “I was looking for somewhere to commit and then Miami reached out. I remembered about Bruno and Rai and had good conversations with the coaches and Bruno.”

Both players have found success early in their collegiate careers. The transition from junior leagues to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) hasn’t been easy, but both Bruveris and Simanovičs have been paving their way.

During his time in the United States Hockey League (USHL) on the Cedar Rapids Roughriders, Bruveris averaged a .897 save percentage. He is already putting up similar numbers for Miami, averaging a .866 save percentage in 15 appearances and 794 minutes of game time.

Bruvreis really stepped up when graduate student goaltender Logan Neaton was injured. In a game against the Denver University Pioneers, Bruveris saved the game for the RedHawks with a block in overtime to send the game into a shootout, earning him the NCHC play of the week.

For Bruveris, the major element of transitioning from junior league to the NCHC is the intensity and speed of the game.

“You have to make that jump from juniors to college,” Bruveris said. “College hockey is a lot faster. It’s just a different level. Learning to manage my schedule so I can have the best version of myself in class and on the ice was a crucial thing to me.”

Simanovičs went a different route and played in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) for the Amarillo Wranglers. He was first in goals scored for defensemen (16) and second in points (45) across the entire conference. At Miami, Simanovičs already has seven points and 22 shots over 27 games.

“The skill of the game is just way different,” Simanovičs said. “The level of play is way faster and harder. I’ve had to adjust a lot and pay more attention to details so I can play at this level and try to do what I did last year in juniors. I’m gonna try to do my best here and keep going.”

Both players have high aspirations, not just for themselves but for the team as well. Although the transition into collegiate hockey has been a process, Bruveris and Simanovičs  still  hope to make a playoff run.

“I believe that we can take a step forward during this last stretch of the season,” Bruveris said. “We’re looking forward to the playoffs and to just leave it all out there and make a run.”

Miami currently sits at 7-24-3 on the season. They head to North Dakota to play the No. 1 University of North Dakota Hawks in the NCHC Tournament on March 15. 

The team believes they can make a run. All that is left is for them to prove it on the ice.