Norsemen center Daniels Murnieks hails from Riga, Latvia but by now he’s pretty used to life on this side of the world. This is his fourth season playing in the United States and while he can still notice the differences between here and his homeland, he is becoming more and more acclimated to American life.
“As for the hockey, I’m already used to it. The speed, the hits, the small rinks too. Everything about hockey I’m already used to,” Murnieks explains. “Outside of hockey… there are some things that feel weird for me or are just different. It’s a different culture.”
Murnieks’ time in the United States started in Springfield, MA where he led the team in goals (27), assists (30) and points (57, 25 more than the next player) in 36 regular season games played in 2018-19. The next season he found himself in Auburn, ME playing for the Twin Cities Thunder in the USPHL and NCDC and a handful of games in their 18U AAA program the Twin Cities Lightning. The pandemic caused Daniels to have to spend the 2020-21 season back in his home country of Latvia playing for HS Riga and HK Mogo but was back in the US last season playing in the USHL for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
“Daniels fits in well, I think he’s game’s coming along here. There’s some room to adapt and learn. He played a full year but he didn’t play a ton in Cedar Rapids last year,” points out St. Cloud Norsemen Head Coach Corey Millen. (Murnieks dressed for 33 of 60 regular season games) “He’s come here and I think he’s grown every day.”
Murnieks is third on the team in points (5-12-17 in 26 GP) and tied for fourth in goals and a big part of his game is getting time on the power play and converting on those chances. His seven points on the power play are one off of Kade Peterson’s eight for the team lead and Murnieks is a versatile player that the coaching staff can depend on in all situations.
“He’s older, he’s been around, he’s played in some really good situations even in World Championships/Junior,” points out Millen. “He’s a competitor, he wants to win, he’s got an edge, he is kind of a student of the game, so we definitely lean on him in all situations.”
As Millen alluded to, Murnieks represented his home country of Latvia in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championships in Denmark. In five games Murnieks scored a goal and three points wit a +1 rating for his national team.
That competition helped prepare him for the NAHL, one of the most physical junior leagues around. “This league for sure is a lot of hitting, good speed, a lot of fighting, aggressive physicality,” Murnieks points out. “It’s good hockey here.”
It’s almost all positives for the Latvian, but we did have to ask what he misses from back home. “Probably my mom’s food, that’s the biggest thing,” admits Murnieks. “Then my dog, my family, and my friends.”
Murnieks and the Norsemen are back in action this weekend as they travel to take on the Aberdeen Wings Friday and Saturday night, with the puck dropping both nights at Odde Ice Center at 7:15 pm. Both of those games can be watched on hockeytv.com.
The next home game for the Norsemen is on Saturday, January 14th vs. the Austin Bruins. You can get tickets online at tickets.stcloudnorsemen.com.