An incoming freshman with the Bowling Green State University hockey team will miss 33 games this upcoming season for playing in a professional hockey league prior to coming to the United States. Latvian-born Ralfs Freibergs played with the Latvia World Junior Team in 2009, and to help the defenseman prepare for the tournament, federation officials arranged for him to play in a domestic professional league. It is unconfirmed Freibergs was paid for his professional stint, but it is very likely he was not paid.
According to his profile on Elite Prospects, he played 33 games with Dinamo Juniors Riga, a farm team of the KHL club Dinamo Riga. In those games during the 2009-10 season, he recorded three assists and 34 penalty minutes.
In a report posted on USCHO.com last week, the NCAA has suspended him one collegiate game for every professional game he played. Freibergs and his family are appealing to get the suspension reduced. If it is not reduced, the first game he is eligible to appear in will be the regular-season home finale against Northern Michigan on Feb. 23, 2013. He is eligible to participate in organized team activities and practices. He will likely be red-shirted this season and will retain four years of eligibility.
Falcons bench boss Chris Bergeron said in an interview that this ruling was possible and they were prepared for whatever the NCAA handed down. “Ultimately, anything professional, when it comes to the NCAA, is something that will have penalties with it,” Bergeron told the Bowling Green Sentinel- Tribune. “We knew, as a program, as a staff, this was a possibility. It’s not something out of left field.”
Freibergs, 21, has played the last 2 1/2 seasons in the United States. He spent his junior hockey career playing in the USHL with Lincoln Stars and the NAHL with Texas Tornado. Between the two leagues, he scored 16 goals and 99 assists in 137 games. His scouting report said he’s a highly-skilled defenseman who is expected to provide offense on the power play for Bowling Green. Last season that unit was very anemic as they went 17-192 (nine percent).
Bowling Green will open their 2012-13 season October 6 at Niagara. They will host Union at home six days later. Their CCHA conference opener will take place Oct. 26 at home vs Ohio State.