Latvian-born Filips Buncis is ready to take on ASU hockey's new season

Part one of a two-part feature on ASU's first two Latvian-born hockey players

ASU men's hockey entered a new era of play last year in their first full season as a Division I team. This promotion opened up new recruiting territory, bringing two Latvian-born players to ASU's squad.

Those players are freshman defenseman Gvido Jansons and forward Filips Buncis, both who were born in Latvia before being recruited to ASU from their respective North American Hockey League teams in Pennsylvania. 

Buncis may currently be defined by his origins, but that will soon change as he spends more time on the ice with ASU.

“Filips is a really heavy 200-foot center,” head coach Greg Powers said. “He is really difficult to play against in every zone and very reliable in all three zones. He will really help us on face-offs as well.”

Buncis' nationality is not on Powers' radar, nor is it something Buncis is focused on. Powers' number one priority is his team and how it stacks up against the competition.

“We’re really like brothers right now and it's only been a couple of months,” Buncis said. “It’s going to be a really good year. I really want to prove to all the other hockey schools that we are a team. We can beat teams that are supposedly good.”

The pressure will be on for the Sun Devils, as they will compete against those formidable opponents throughout the entire season. 

However, Buncis has been playing hockey since he was five years old and said his experience allows him to always be prepared.

“It depends on how the game goes,” Buncis said. “Sometimes, if things don’t go your way and you just don’t get those bounces, then you just put your head down and just work.”

The centerman has a solid background, as he spent three seasons with the NAHL’s Johnstown Tomahawks, which included two trips to the postseason. 

Additionally, Buncis was a part of the Latvian team, which was promoted up to the top division after taking first in the 2016 International Ice Hockey Federation Junior Hockey Championships.

“Whenever you face the big crowd, or important moments of the game, it can push on your nerves a little bit, but I enjoy those moments,” Buncis said. “I live for that, I love to be in those situations when you have that important face off or have to block the shot — whatever it takes.”

Nonetheless, Buncis is well aware that those moments are not always the key to being successful as a team. 

Attitude is essential for Buncis, whether it is knowing whether to be mentally present during practice or knowing what he needs to contribute on the ice at each moment. 

“I just want to be a part of a group that I can help. If I have to sit out a night, it’s fine,” Buncis said. “If I have a game and I don’t score and I shut down defense, that makes me really happy. I just want to win.” 

These qualities are indicative of a leader, and that is something Buncis is open to being.

“It’s still early, but I like to be a leader,” Buncis said. “I don’t have to have a letter. Everyone is a leader on our team.”

Despite not having started the official season, Buncis’ team-oriented mindset and potential for leadership have not been overlooked by Powers.

“He already conducts himself like a pro on and off the ice, and he is only a freshman,” Powers said. “I can’t wait to see what he will be like two years from now.”

 Reach the reporter at or follow @paige_burnell on Twitter.   

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