Who knew a friend’s recommendation to a coach could go so far?
In the case of Eduards Tralmaks, it led to coming to North America, playing in the USHL and earning a commitment to play college hockey for the University of Maine.
“My friend came over the year before me to play for the Boston Bandits. The coaches asked him if he knew any other Latvians and he gave them my name,” said Tralmaks.
Coming across the pond opened his eyes to new opportunities that he never envisioned playing in his native Latvia.
“I didn’t see a future playing back home. I didn’t even know about college hockey when I came over here, but I went to a few college games and after watching them, I knew I wanted to play college hockey,” Tralmaks said.
After playing four seasons with the Boston Bandits organization, Tralmaks was drafted by the USHL’s Chicago Steel where he’s played this season. It was a slow start to the year as he adjusted to playing in the best Junior A league in North America, but it took a turn for the better after an eye-opening experience over Christmas break.
Representing his country at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship spurred his confidence and helped him become more prepared to play against the competition he was facing night in and night out in the USHL.
“It was unbelievable,” said Tralmaks of playing in the World Juniors. “We didn’t do as well as we wanted, but it was a positive experience. It gave me a push coming back.”
With a renewed focus on playing his game, Tralmaks had a terrific second half and finished the regular season with 11 goals and 16 assists.
“I started to play my game. I started to hit more. I finished checks. I just started playing a more complete game,” Tralmaks said.
He’s ratcheted up his play a notch in the playoffs, leading the USHL in goal scoring during the postseason with seven in nine games. Several of his scoring plays have been highlight-reel worthy.
Tralmaks and his hot hand will play a big role in the Steel’s attempt to win their first ever USHL championship, starting Friday night with a best-of-5 Clark Cup Finals series against Sioux City.
“I’m excited. It’s a dream come true. We’re making big things happen. I’m beyond excited to play in the finals. Hopefully we can win,” said Tralmaks.
A big left wing who stands at 6-foot-3, Tralmaks fits the bill of players recruited by Maine head coach Red Gendron and his staff.
“I’m a power forward. I like to hit. I like to play with the puck a lot. I like to make skilled plays. I like to go to the net and be in front of the net. It’s where I score most of my goals,” he said.
The one knock on Tralmaks has always been his skating, but it’s a part of his game that he’s committed to improving as he embarks on the next chapter of his hockey career.
“Skating is my biggest issue for now. It’s never been good for me but I’ll do everything in my power to improve it this summer,” said Tralmaks, who will head to Orono in July.
Tralmaks grew up idolizing Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, but he took a liking to another European who was with the Boston Bruins during his time in Massachusetts.
“Carl Soderberg had the same number as me so I watched him a lot when he was with the Bruins. We’re similar players,” Tralmaks said.
Tralmaks will be part of a large recruiting class for the Black Bears, one that includes four Europeans. It was Maine assistant coach Ben Guite who noticed Tralmaks while he was still a lesser-known commodity playing in the EHL. The early commitment from the Maine coaching staff has stuck with Tralmaks.
“I could tell they really liked and cared about me. They always were [contacting] me even when I was back in Latvia. They cared about every step I was doing,” said Tralmaks.
Experiencing the Alfond Arena crowd against archrival New Hampshire didn’t hurt when it came to selling Tralmaks on the program.
“UMaine was the first college game I saw. It was a big game and the house was packed. It was nice to see the people cheering for their favorite team. The atmosphere was great,” Tralmaks said.