Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Latvians Are Set to Shine for the Stars

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Latvians Are Set to Shine for the Stars

Article excerpt


BILLINGHAM Stars have intensified preparations for the revamped National Ice Hockey League season by bringing in two new signings from Latvia - forward Deniss Bakatovs and defenceman Arturs Ozols.

With the announcement of the arrival of Bakatovs, the Ultimate Windows-backed Stars are expecting big things from a player who has consistently found the back of the net wherever he has played.

Hailing from the Latvian capital city of Riga, 24-year-old Bakatovs spent his early career in his home country before joining up with Russian outfit Olimpiya Kirovo-Chepetsk in the MHL, the top junior hockey league in Eurasia, in 2013.

He moved from there to Belarus for his second MHL season with MHK Yunost Minsk before heading West and spending two seasons in the BeNeLiga, first with Eindhoven Kemphanen then last year with Chiefs Leuven where he top-scored for the Belgian side.

Although new to British hockey, Bakatovs is looking forward to his new challenge with the Teessidebased Stars.

"I know hockey in the UK is growing very fast, which is great," he said. "The level of hockey is good and I am excited about being a part of the growth of the sport.

"I want to win every game - I will do my best every game to score lots of goals and help set up my teammates for goals. "I will do whatever is needed for us to try and win."

Billingham announced the arrival of Ozols last week, opting to beef up their defence with an import for the first time in over a decade.

Ozols, 21, joins the Stars from Zemgale of the Latvian Hockey League, a side based in his home town of Jelgava.

A tall, stay-at-home defenceman at 6ft 3in, Ozols has spent almost all of his senior career to date playing in the top two divisions in Latvia, racking up 111 games in four seasons. He left his home country for the 2015-2016 campaign to play in the Finnish II-divisioona league with Virkia, a stint that also included a brief loan spell with Kuku.

Ozols is excited by the prospect of playing in the UK. …

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