RIGA, Latvia – For two years, Rihards Marenis made the North Iowa Bulls name a prominent one on the American junior hockey landscape. Fans in eastern Europe may soon be hearing more about the Bulls as well. After scoring four goals in just seven games for Latvian professional team HK MOGO, Marenis has climbed the ladder to the top level of European professional hockey.
Marenis was called up to join the Kontinental Hockey League’s Dinamo Riga on Thursday, and played in their game against the Chinese Kunlun Red Star team on Friday. Dinamo Riga fell 3-1, dropping to 6-10 on the season. Marenis registered one shot on goal, playing just under 10 minutes in his KHL debut.
The Latvian native earned a preseason tryout with Dinamo Riga, and was one of the last players cut from the roster prior to the start of the season. The KHL is widely considered the second-highest level of professional hockey in the world, behind only the National Hockey League.
Along with Timothy Santopaolo and Matt Kroska, Marenis was one-third of a forward line that electrified North Iowa fans from 2012-14, and led the Bulls to 57 wins during the 2013-14 campaign. That team fell one win shy of a USA Hockey national championship, losing in the national finals to the Boston Jr. Bruins. 16 players from that team would go on to play NCAA Division I hockey.
He came to Mason City from the NAHL’s Amarillo Bulls during the middle of the 2012-13 season, playing a prominent role in leading North Iowa to its first USA Hockey national championship that year. The next year, Marenis truly became a star, scoring 113 points on the way to a 45-3 regular season. After leaving North Iowa, Marenis went on to a more-than-productive college career at Aurora University in Illinois, scoring 60 points in 73 games at the NCAA Division III level.
Dinamo Riga continues its season against Admiral Vladivostok on Sunday. That game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. puck drop in Riga, or 9 a.m. Iowa time. The North Iowa Bulls congratulate Rihards Marenis on his call-up to the KHL, and wish him continued success in the professional ranks.
(photo courtesy of Aurora University athletic department)