Despite Ben Bishop being snubbed by the Team USA selection committee, the Texas Tornado will be represented at the Sochi Games after all. Former Tornado Defenseman Ralfs Freibergs, who is currently in his sophomore season at Bowling Green State, has been selected to compete for Latvia in the coming Olympic Tournament. Freibergs is the only player currently in the NCAA on an Olympic team roster.
Freibergs came to the NAHL and Texas Tornado in mid January 2010 and continued with the team through the 2010/11 season. Ralfs’ impact was immediate as he registered two assists the first time he touched the ice in a Tornado sweater. In only 26 games with Texas down the stretch he put up 18 points (1G – 17A) to finish second among Defensemen.
With a full season to work with Freibergs put up some very impressive numbers in 2010/11. He turned into a point per game player registering 55 points (7G – 48A) in 53 games played. Freibergs never went more than two games during the season without registering a point. In early October he hung a five point night on the Amarillo Bulls in an 8 – 4 Tornado win. He was selected to play in both NAHL Top Prospect Tournaments held in the season. In 2010/11 he was honored as the NAHL Defenseman of the Year and was a First Team All-Star selection.
Following his career with the Tornado, Freibergs spent one season with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. Once again he made his presence known as he led all USHL Defensemen in scoring and was 11th in the league in +/-. In 60 games played he recorded 43 points (8G – 35A) and was a +24.
Stellar play at the Junior and International levels tends to generate a lot of attention with NCAA scouts and coaching staffs and Freibergs garnered a lot of interests. On January 17, 2012 Ralfs signed a commitment to D-I Bowling Green State University. Since joining the Falcons, Freibergs has played in 32 games registering 23 points (2G – 21A).
In December of 2010, it was announced that both Freibergs and Tornado Forward Jack Prince (Great Britain) would represent their countries at the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation Division I World Junior Championship. The tournament was the fourth international tournament for Freibergs. He had played for Latvia’s U18 team in the 2008 and 2009 World Juniors followed by the 2010 and 2011 World Juniors with the U20 team and the World Championship in 2013. Freibergs was selected as the Best Defenseman by the Directorate of the 2010 IIHF Division I World Junior Hockey Championships. In all Freibergs has 34 games of World Championship level play under his belt. He has accounted for 11 points (2G – 9A) and is a +7 in those games.
Freibergs spot on Team Latvia will give the old Tornado faithful something to root for other than Team USA. He will join former NHL Defensemen Sandis Ozolins and Oskars Bartulis, current Buffalo Sabres Forward Zemgus Girgensons and former NHL Forwards Kaspars Daugavins and Martins Karsums on the Latvian roster.