Former Soviet league defenseman Leonids Beresnevs has been named the coach of the Latvian national team for the 2016 World Championship.
The coaching contract expires at the end of the tournament, but has an option for “automatic extension,” according to the IIHF. Those extensions kick in through the Olympic Qualification games in September 2016. That will then extend through 2018 should Latvia qualify for the Olympics.
Though he was born in Russia, Beresnevs moved to Riga at 20 and spent a large portion of his career playing there. He played 10 seasons for Dinamo Riga in the Soviet league and then continued playing in Riga for the Latvian league after that.
He has spent time coaching at just about every level for the national team, including coaching the men’s national team from 1996 to 1999, leading the team to a seventh place finish at Worlds in 1997. That was the country’s best finish in the World Championship, a feat that they’ve now matched two other times.
This winter he coached the national U20 team, leading them to a Division I championship that means the Latvians will take part in the 2017 World Junior Championship, taking the place of the relegated Belarus.
At the 2017 World Championship in Moscow, Latvia will play in the top division for the 20th straight tournament. They will play in Group A with Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Kazakhstan, where Beresnevs had been coaching prior to returning to Riga recently.
In addition to the World Championship, Latvia will play qualifying games for the 2018 Olympics from September 1 to 4, facing Germany, Austria and another qualifying opponent.