Image (c) Jordy Kyros Via Twitter
This weekend the Australian Men’s Hockey Team take wing for Finland as they go into a 6 day camp ahead of their tilt at The IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships (Division II Group B).
The best eligible players from the Australian Ice Hockey League were selected from a stream of hopefuls after an Australia vs Australia selection game held after last season’s finals. The team is looking fresh this year with eight new faces joining the squad. Brian Funes, Wehebe Darge, David Dunwoodie, David Huxley and Jordan Kyros join the squad as well as Canadian born players Paul Baranzelli and Robert Malloy, who gained Australian citizenship and therefore eligibility.
“Selection is a competitive process every year, No one has a spot until we’ve gone through the complete process, it’s based on performance in the AIHL plus we get a lot of film on these guys. Guys have to earn their spots year in year out and you are going to have changeover because of it. We’ve got young guys knocking on the door and if they deserve to be in they’ll be in.” said Coach Ryan O’Handley.
The reality of the world championship for these players is different to what some of our Canadian and North American readers might be used to. The AIHL and the Australian team are a semi-professional league, what does that mean? Well, equipment and some expenses might be covered but the players are not paid to play. Players must take time off their jobs and time away from their families and pre-season preparation for the AIHL. Then to add some spice, they have to pony up cash for the trip.
The men are in a more fortunate situation than the Australian Women’s team, many of whom turned to crowdfunding and social media to pay for their trip to their recent world championship. The men receive some funding from IIHf towards their attendance at the tournament based on how they performed the previous year.
They will come up against teams who are made up of players who are generally in the same boat, although their boat didn’t have to make it quite as far as the Mighty Roos will travel.
It’s over 9,000 miles from Sydney to Finland then another 2000 from Finland to Reykjavik, Iceland where the tournament proper will take place. By comparison the next farthest team, Spain will travel mere 3000 miles.
Not that Coach O’Handley mentions this, instead he tells me of goaltender Anthony Kimlin who currently plays with Whitby in the ACH. I asked Ryan if Anthony not being part of the Australian league is a disadvantage and he is emphatic in his refusal. “He’s my guy. He’ll be the best goalie in the tournament. He is every year.”
Newcastle North Stars Goalie, Josh Broekman, was a last minute call up to the team at the weekend. There’s been no comment from the team as to whether he is replacing the Mustang’s Fraser Carson or Kimlin. However Kimlin has been left off the initial Roster for today’s game. This will be big blow for the Australians if he is unavailable for the entire tournament. Update: Kimlin is out For the entire tournament with torn ACL. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Romania have come down from Division 1 and will be a tough opponent for the Australians coming out of their combined league with the Netherlands.
O’Handley says the Australians need to be wary of their first matchup with Spain who have been recently promoted to the division. “They have a very strong goaltender and could put on the ice a good team.”
The Australian are comfortable with their match ups with Serbia, Ireland, and Belgium who they defeated 6-0 last tournament.
Australia’s NHL draftee Nathan Walker was not available to join the squad however fan favorites Tommy Powell, Liam Webster, Brendan McDowell , Austin McKenzie and Jordy Kyros will represent both their AIHL teams and their country.
19 year old Adelaide Adrenaline player, Casey Kubara, will be replacing, Melbourne Mustang, Jamie Bourke who is unable to participate due to personal commitments. via twitter
The Mighty Roos take on Spain at 1pm GMT. A livestream of the tournament will be available via links at the official page one hour before game time.