CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — In the fifth-last game of the RoughRiders’ regular season on Friday, Bruno Bruveris stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 6-1 win over Youngstown, clinching a playoff berth for USHL Cedar Rapids.
The following night, the Latvian was 29-for-31 in a 3-2 shootout loss against the same Phantoms team (which is tied for second in the Eastern Conference with 77 points) and denied eight penalty shots before the RoughRiders finally fell in the ninth round.
In less than two weeks, the Miami commit will backstop Cedar Rapids in the Clark Cup playoffs.
VFTG takes a first look at G Bruno Bruveris:
Resume: Bruveris, from Riga, Latvia, was a mainstay in Eastern Europe’s prospect-laden MHL for three seasons and saw his save percentage rise each campaign before he headed to North America in 2021-22, joining USHL Cedar Rapids. In his rookie year with the RoughRiders, he posted a mercurial .873 save percentage in 31 games but was outstanding as a member of Team Latvia in the Under-20s that season with a save percentage of .918.
This season, he is tied for third in the league with four shutouts and his 23 wins ties him for fourth-best in the USHL. He has a 2.62 goals-against average in 2022-23.
Vitals: Bruveris is on the small side for an NCHC goalie, listed at 6-feet and 167 pounds on the USHL site, but his athleticism is apparent from the opening faceoff. He loves to use his stick as a defensive tool — he had it knocked out of his hand on multiple occasions on the weekend — and partly as a result he excels in loose-puck scrums near the crease. He also was comfortable and smart playing the puck behind or by the net. Bruveris is extremely aggressive on penalty shots, coming out nearly to the hash marks before retreating toward his net as opposing skaters approach. He’s a fan favorite, as Cedar Rapids fans are fond of their ‘Bruno’s better’ chirp at opposing goalies, and it’s easy to see why. He’s exciting to watch, he gets involved on the bench during time-outs and even tapped the maintenance crew when it left the ice after fixing a net mooring.
Game 1 highlights: After seeing little early action, Bruveris made an outstanding sprawling save late in the first period, losing his stick in the process, and denying the rebound on his stomach. He also had to shut down a rebound attempt earlier in that frame. He allowed his lone goal on a 1-on-0 in which the skater cut in uncontested from the half boards and roofed a backhander over him. Later that frame he shut down two point-blank pokes at the top of the crease and another quality 1-on-1 chance. The second period ended in a skirmish, and he was reprimanded for heading to the bench (or the altercation?) early. Cedar Rapids pulled away in the final stanza and a trickling puck that rolled just wide of the post after Bruveris denied a point-blank attempt was the closest he came to allowing a goal in the final 20 minutes. He played a couple of rebounds in front of him rather than to the side, but it was an impressive effort overall.
Game 2 highlights: Again, Bruveris was not tested early in this game, but he was still solid overall in the first 20 minutes and denied a 1-on-0 down low with his glove in the closing minute of the first period. It was a weird middle frame, as a shot that appeared to whiz wide of Bruveris apparently caught net and was ruled a goal, tying the score at one. Minutes later Youngstown took the lead as a skater that had a defender draped to him cut to the crease and was able to pitchfork the puck in. Bruveris faced mostly low-percentage shots the rest of regulation and denied them all. He was not tested in 3-on-3 overtime until the closing minute, when he stopped a point-blank shot, and the puck trickled behind him. His teammates jammed the puck under him to prevent to game-winner. The score was still 2-2 heading into the shootout, and Bruveris stopped the first eight penalty shots (one rolled off a shooter’s stick) before Youngstown finally roofed a backhander in the ninth round as the Phantoms earned the extra point.
Where he fits in at Miami: With three-year starter Ludvig Persson transferring to North Dakota, Miami’s starting goalie job appears wide open this fall. His competition will be graduate senior and Winnipeg Jets draft pick Logan Neaton, who has played in 22 games in four seasons, and expected third goalie Carter McPhail, also in his fifth season. McPhail did not appear in a contest in 2022-23, his first season with Miami after transferring from Ferris State. Bruveris could be handed the keys to the net right away, and having two veteran netminder teammates to help his college transition would be a luxury. Also facilitating his jump to Division I is the addition of two other Latvian-born players: Raimonds Vitolins and Rihards Simanovics.
Overall thoughts: Including a 19-save shutout over league doormat Madison, Bruveris is 80-of-83 (.964) in the RoughRiders’ last three contests of this critical stretch run and appears to be playing his best hockey of the season heading into the playoffs. He logged 85 postseason minutes with Cedar Rapids in 2021-22 and had a save percentage of .839 in very limited action, so hopefully he can tap his international experience and carry his current momentum into the Clark Cup playoffs. One major adjustment for Bruveris heading into his freshman season with the RedHawks will be his in-game workload. Cedar Rapids is an outstanding defensive team, allowing the fewest shots per game in the league (25.8). Miami surrendered an average of 34.3 SOG, sixth-worst in the NCAA and last in the conference by over four shots. But Bruveris is athletic, has good instincts and seems to thrive in chaos. He should play a significant role in net for the RedHawks and could end up the top rookie among Miami’s incoming freshman class.