Hoof Beats: Zirnis joins Latvian staff in Sochi

Karlis Zirnis (Photo by UAH Sports Information)

Karlis Zirnis takes a shot during a game in 2001.
(Photo by UAH Sports Information)

Karlis Zirnis, a Charger winger from 1999-2003, will be an assistant coach for Latvia at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

“Igor” scored 119 career points at UAH, which trails only Jared Ross for most in the Chargers’ modern Division I era and is 15th all-time. His 46 goals is third in UAH’s modern Division I era, and his 73 assists is second. Zirnis led the Chargers in scoring in 2000-01 (37 points) and 2001-02 (31).

“I’m nervous and I’m excited,” Zirnis told The Tennesseean. “I’m definitely more excited than nervous. It’s going to be a great event and a great opportunity.”

While in Sochi, Zirnis will be coaching a current player in the WCHA: Bowling Green defenseman Ralfs Freibergs. Both Zirnis and Freibergs are natives of Riga, Latvia.

“Everyone goes there to compete for a medal, and that is our ultimate goal and one I believe is attainable,” Zirnis said.

Zirnis currently teaches youth hockey in Franklin, Tennessee, and lives in Fairview.

Another Thunder commitment: Connor Wood, a forward on the Thunder AAA Under-18 roster, committed to UAH on Saturday. He is expected to join the Chargers for the 2015-16 season.

Wood, a native of Buford, Georgia, has 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points in 44 games played this season with the Thunder, whose general manager is UAH alum Nathan Bowen (’00). He’ll tender next season in the North American Hockey League’s Amarillo Bulls, who are coached by former UAH assistant coach Dennis Williams.

Wood is the second player from the Thunder who has committed to the Chargers. Defenseman and Huntsville native Ted Rotenberger committed last summer to UAH, also for the 2015-16 season.

Check out our commitments page for more information on incoming recruits.

Around the WCHA: With Ferris State idle, Minnesota State had a chance to catch up to the first-place Bulldogs by taking two in Northern Michigan. Friday night did not go according to plan for the Mavericks, who allowed four third-period goals in  5-2 loss. MSU rebounded nicely on Saturday, drilling the Wildcats 5-1, and now trail Ferris State by only two points.

Bowling Green also had a chance to climb closer to Ferris, but was stunned at home by a Michigan Tech team that was 3-10-2 on the road coming in. The Huskies, who host UAH this week, won 5-2 on Friday and got a Blake Pietila goal in overtime to win 5-4 on Saturday. The Falcons stay in third place, five points out of first.

Alaska moved into a tie for fifth after sweeping UAH. The Nanooks needed it, as the rest of the schedule does not favor Alaska making the WCHA playoffs.

Ferris State moved up to No. 5 in this week’s USCHO.com poll. Only Minnesota State received votes. The Bulldogs host Northern Michigan this weekend, while the Mavericks entertain Bemidji State. Alaska-Anchorage, currently in fourth, hosts Lake Superior.

WCHA Standings Conference Overall
GP W L T Pts W L T
Ferris State 18 13 3 2 28 18 6 3
Minnesota State 20 13 7 0 26 15 13 0
Bowling Green 22 10 9 3 23 13 12 5
Alaska-Anchorage 20 9 8 3 21 13 10 3
Alaska 22 9 11 2 20 12 12 4
Bemidji State 20 8 8 4 20 8 13 7
Michigan Tech 20 8 8 4 20 10 14 6
Northern Michigan 18 9 8 1 19 11 13 2
Lake Superior State 18 8 10 0 16 12 13 1
Alabama-Huntsville 18 1 16 1 3 1 26 1


All times Central.
* WCHA game.

Friday, February 7
* UAH at Michigan Tech, 6:07 p.m.
* Northern Michigan at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska-Anchorage at Lake Superior State, 6:37 p.m.
* Bemidji State at Minnesota State, 7:37 p.m.

Saturday, February 1
* UAH at Michigan Tech, 4:07 p.m.
* Northern Michigan at Ferris State, 6:07 p.m.
* Alaska-Anchorage at Lake Superior State, 6:07 p.m.
* Bemidji State at Minnesota State, 7:07 p.m.

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