Lyudmila Belyakova (Richard Wolowicz/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
The New York Riveters have signed the NWHL’s first Russian player, inking national team forward Lyudmila Belyakova to a contract. Belyakova was an attendee at the NWHL’s international camp, where she impressed Riveters GM Dani Rylan, leading to the NWHL deal.
The New York Riveters made NWHL history when they inked Janine Weber to the league’s first free agent contract, but the club has made history of another kind, signing the league’s first Russian player.
Riveters GM Dani Rylan announced this past weekend that the club has signed Russian national team forward Lyudmila Belyakova to a contract for the 2015-16 season. Belyakova was one of the attendees at the league’s international free agent camp and impressed Rylan, which led to the signing.
"Belyakova is a dynamic forward with competitive international experience. She's goal-oriented and creative around the net," said Rylan in a release. "We're excited to showcase international talent in the NWHL and hope Lyudmila is the first of many Russian players to join our league."
Belyakova, 20, has suited up for Russia in the past three women’s World Championships, having scored two goals over those 17 games. At the women’s under-18 World Juniors in in 2010-11 and 2011-12, however, Belyakova stood out big time, and that’s the player the Riveters are hoping they’ve signed. During the under-18 tournament in 2010-11, Belyakova notched 11 goals and 16 points in five games. The following year, she scored six goals and seven points in six games.
"I'm very happy and very excited," Belyakova said. "This is a long time dream come true, so I think everything combined is going to be very exciting. I will try to do all possible to help my team win a championship."
This past season, Belyakova played in the Russian women’s league for Moscow Tornado, where she scored 26 goals and 41 points.
"(Belyakova) has her own style, which makes her pretty unique,” longtime Russian national team player Yekaterina Pashkevich said. “She has great hands and great vision on the ice. I think combining her style with the U.S. style of play will make her excel so much in her ability to play.”
Belyakova is one of nine players now on the Riveters roster, which leaves nine open spots with exactly three weeks before the free agency period is set to close for NWHL clubs. Each of the league’s four teams must have their entire roster signed by Aug. 17.