BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – The North Iowa Bulls aren’t just one of the best teams in the United States at their level of junior hockey. A couple of Bulls alumni are among the best their nations have to offer, and they’ve showcased their skills this spring on the world stage.
On Tuesday, the Latvian national team closed out its run on the world’s largest stage of the year with the help of record-setting Bulls forward Rihards Marenis. The Riga native scored a pair of goals for the Latvians in a 3-4 run at the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia, earning insurance goals in wins over Italy and Norway.
Japan has yet to reach the big World Championships stage, but speedster forward Kohei Sato had plenty to say about the Japanese chances at the Division I-B World Championships in Tallinn, Estonia. Playing among the 23rd to 28th best national teams in the world, Japan closed the tournament with a record of 2-3. The Nishitokio native had an assist in the first game of the tournament against Ukraine, and tallied a first-period goal in a 3-2 win over Romania. Those points touched off a four-point run for the current University of New Hampshire sophomore.
Marenis electrified crowds in Mason City and elsewhere during his run with the Bulls. 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, and a 57-5 final record.
After a healthy NCAA Division III career at Aurora University in Illinois, Marenis moved up to the Kontinental Hockey League this past season, scoring four goals and an assist with his hometown Dinamo Riga club.
Sato put on a nightly skating clinic with his speed and instincts, helping the Bulls win back-to-back national championships in 2015 and 2016 and an NA3HL championship in the latter season. His 73 points in 71 regular-season games led to his big break with the NAHL’s Northeast Generals during the 2017-18 season. In 50 games at New Hampshire, the former Bull has earned four points, including a pair of goals.