This is the first season for Daniels Murnieks with the St. Cloud Norsemen, but the Latvian is no stranger to playing in the United States. This is his fourth season in the USA and he’ll admit, it’s been an adjustment.
“Oh yeah, 100% I’ve adjusted. It took me a little time,” Murnieks confides when asked about if European and North American hockey are different. “It is way different than European hockey; a little bit faster, more physical and more shots I would say.”
St. Cloud Norsemen Assistant Coach Brock Kautz agrees that Murnieks certainly looks the part of a veteran to hockey in North America. “He’s been over here for a couple years and was playing in the USHL and obviously got used to that,” points out Kautz. “He’s been over here for an extended period of time playing a lot of hockey and he’s done a tremendous job. He’s a great kid.”
Murnieks hails from Riga, Latvia and played for HS Riga and SK Riga in his youth. In the fall of 2018 he first played on this side of the Atlantic in Springfield, MA where he played for the Springfield Jr. Pics 16U AAA. His 57 points (27-30-57 in 36 games) were 25 better than anyone else on his team. In 2019-20 he was in Auburn, ME playing for the Twin City Lightning and Twin City Thunder programs in the USPHL and the Twin City Thunder in the NCDC. He spent the pandemic 2020-21 season back in Latvia split between HS Riga and HK Mogo and then last season was with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the USHL as well as representing his home country of Latvia in the World Juniors.
RoughRiders’ Head Coach Mark Carlson knows that Murnieks is the type of guy that no matter where he’s playing, he’s going to contribute to the ultimate goal. “Daniels is a team-first guy that contributes to all facets of the game,” compliments Carlson. “He is someone who helps his team win.”
Murnieks has adjusted well to the NAHL in his first season in the league, as his 21 points (5-16-21 in 38 GP) is fifth on the team. Murnieks feels that the USHL and NAHL are pretty similar, but could think of a few differences. “I would say the biggest difference is the physicality here,” Murnieks answers. “It’s way bigger and guys are hitting more. Speed and everything else is pretty much the same.”
Murnieks is a guy who picks up points on the power play, but he doesn’t rely heavily on the man advantage to get on the scoresheet, he can get points in all aspects of the game. “Obviously he’s on our power play and plays a lot 5-on-5 just because of the trust we have in him in both our own end and to make plays in the offensive zone too,” explains Kautz. “He makes the players around him better, he works hard, he’s really good at protecting the puck or recovering the puck and those two things can allow for more possession in the offensive zone. He’s got the stick skill and the brain to make plays and that’s why I think he’s had success.”
Murnieks plays center and Kautz acknowledges that the Norsemen coaching staff expects a lot out of their forwards down the middle. “We do rely on our centers to be good in the faceoff circle and in our own end as well. He’s an ‘02 who’s played a lot of hockey and played at a high level,” points out Kautz. “He’s strong on his feet, he’s strong on his stick so he can win puck battles no matter where he’s at on the ice. He’s got good feet to get up and down the ice as well. All those things kind of allow for him to play at a high level every time he steps on the ice.”
Murnieks didn’t know what to expect when coming to St. Cloud this September, but he’s happy that he ended up in central Minnesota. “I would say that St. Cloud is a pretty nice city. It’s probably one of the best ones in our division I would say,” Murnieks confides. “I feel pretty good here. It’s a nice place.”
Murnieks and the Norsemen are gonna have to leave St. Cloud for the weekend as they head west to Bismarck to take on the Bobcats for the second straight week. Friday and Saturday they’ll square off with the puck dropping each night at 7:15 pm and the games can be found online at www.hockeytv.com.
The Norsemen are next at home Friday and Saturday, February 17th and 18th vs. the Minot Minotauros. Friday the 17th will be Charlie Boike Night; 50% of the money from tickets sold will go towards the Charlie Boike Scholarship Fund. Also on Friday the 17th the first 100 fans will receive a free Norsemen winter beanie provided by Franklin Graphics & Outdoor Advertising. You can get your tickets for that game and all games at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.