JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — The Johnstown Tomahawks are proud to announce that team captain Filips Buncis has committed to play Division I hockey at Arizona State University for the 2017-18 season.
Buncis, a native of Riga, Latvia, has played 124 games with the Tomahawks in three seasons. The 6-3 forward has scored 71 career points (21 goals, 50 assists) and was named the first European captain in Johnstown hockey history in September 2016.
He represented Latvia at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal and Toronto earlier this season and was named to the NAHL Selects team at the 2017 Top Prospects Tournament in Plymouth, Mich. in February.
For Buncis, the chance to play Division I hockey at a burgeoning program like Arizona State is a “new challenge.”
“I really liked the coaching staff, the campus and I saw it as a new challenge for me to help build a new Division I program,” Buncis said. “I believe Arizona State is a great fit for me. They are building a great program there.”
Buncis will be joining fellow countryman and Aston defenseman Gvido Jansons with the Sun Devils in 2017-18.
“I grew up with him and we are great friends,” Buncis said. “I will be cool to play on the same team with at ASU.”
In three short seasons, Buncis has established himself as a fan favorite in Johnstown, place where Buncis will look back on fondly.
“It has been an unbelievable three years here in Johnstown,” Buncis said. “Johnstown is a great hockey town with the best fans in the league. I am really glad I spent three years in Johnstown.”
Buncis also had high praise for the Tomahawks coaching staff.
“They have been a huge part of my development and helped me prepare for the next level,” Buncis said. “They trusted me with the captaincy this season and that has helped me grow as a player and person this season.”
Located in Tempe, Ariz., the Arizona State Sun Devils are a newcomer to NCAA Division I hockey as the program transitioned to Division I play starting in 2014-15. They currently compete as an Independent with plans to join a conference in 2017-18.
Tomahawks head coach, Mike Letizia, was proud of his captain for announcing his commitment.
“I could not be prouder of our captain Filips Buncis on committing to Arizona State,” Letizia said. “Filips has been one of the most decorated players in our team’s history with all the international competition he has represented his country in, being the first European captain in Johnstown hockey history and now becoming a Division I hockey player.”
Letizia commented additionally that Buncis is dedicated to the Tomahawks and the community.
“Since he has been with the Tomahawks, he has grown his game tremendously through his hard work and dedication to our hockey club,” Letizia said. “He has been a fantastic leader for this year’s team. Filips will be able to help build the tradition of ASU hockey, and I firmly believe the best is yet to come for this outstanding young man.”
In addition to the many accolades he has earned while a Tomahawk, Buncis will be departing for Latvia to attend the Team Latvia World Championship team camp in hopes of making the official roster for the 2017 IIHF World Championship in Cologne, Germany and Paris.
“I will be practicing with the best players in Latvia, basically my idols growing up,” Buncis said.
The tournament begins May 5 and concludes May 21.
Buncis said he plans on coming back to lead the Tomahawks into the Robertson Cup playoffs.
“I want to win it all with this team,” he said. “I know we can do it. I want to bring the cup back to Johnstown!”
Johnstown returns to the Cambria County War Memorial Arena March 17-18 for a St. Patrick’s Green Out Weekend. The team will wear specialty Irish jerseys against the Aston Rebels presented by the Holiday Inn.