Category: Europe (page 1 of 4)

Final whistle for Huet

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By Organizing Committee IIHF Worlds 2017

Cristobal Huet officially announced he will retire from international competitions after the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

Cristobal Huet started to play for the French national team in the 1996/97. The emblematic French goalkeeper then took part to 12 World Championships and two Olympic Games with France. Currently playing in the NLA in Switzerland with Lausanne, Huet is the only French player to have won the prestigious Stanley Cup (2010, Chicago Blackhawks). We met the French hockey legend.

Since you arrived in the French national team, what has changed the most according to you?

Many things have changed since 1996. At the time, we already had talented players such as Philippe Bozon, Christian Pouget, Fabrice Lhenry, Denis Perez, Antoine Richer, or Stephane Barin, but we had to complete the team with French-Canadian players. Since then important reconstruction work has been made by the French Federation to train more high-level players. We can see it by the emergence of very good players in the NHL such as Stephane Da Costa, Antoine Roussel, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Yohann Auvitu. The competition is increasing and the coach has choices to make, and this is a very positive evolution. The hard work done by Dave Henderson and his staff, as well as the emergence of leaders such as Laurent Meunier allowed the team to progress year after year.

You will have played 20 years at the international level. What is the secret for such longevity?

I don’t know. As players, we don’t calculate anything. The seasons pass one after the other, but the pleasure remains. After my NHL years (2002-2010), I was able to involve myself again with the French team, which made me feel good. Every season, we want to come back to defend our country’s colours at the World Championship. Playing for the own country is an exciting challenge to face.

At the beginning of your career, what would you have said if we had told you that you would finish your adventure with the French national team with a World Championship on home ice in Paris?

I wouldn’t have believed it! When I came back to Europe in 2010, I always thought it could be the last year. Playing in May after each season represents sacrifices but it is such a pleasure to wear the French jersey, so I don’t regret anything. The group lives very well together and the team is more and more performant. Thus, when Paris’ candidature for the organization of the World Championship got concrete, it convinced all the “old ones” to go on, to be able to live this experience.

Let’s talk about the World Championship to come. What does it represent to you and what can it bring to French ice hockey?

As a hockey player, it is a major event. Organizing the World Championship in France is a great opportunity for the French population to discover our sport, to gather all the passionate, and for the foreign fans to discover Paris. Welcoming the Canadians, the Finnish and the Swiss is amazing. For 10 days, we will focus the attention. Now it’s our turn to make it a successful championship and to show our team values.

Do you have a special message for the French hockey family?

This is THE meeting not to miss. We have a great opportunity to gather ourselves and to show the beauty of our sport to a maximum of people. I am very sure this will be a beautiful hockey celebration, so join us: we are waiting for all of you!

Finally, what can we wish you for your last months on ice hockey rinks?

I first hope to realize good playoffs with Lausanne, and then of course an excellent World Championship with France. It is always better to win games, but in every case, it will for sure be unforgettable. If I can have a happy ending by beautiful national team career, I would be the happiest hockey player on earth.

 

Croatian prospect Ficur joins MOB for North American experience

By Robert MurrayFort McMurray Today

The first time Fort McMurray Oil Barons head coach Tom Keca met Ficur, the McMurrayite had helped arrange travels through Alberta for a pair of hockey-minded youth groups from Europe. A standout then, Keca left the door open for Ficur to return when he was older if he wanted to experience the game at faster pace.

After travelling over 7,000 kilometers, Ficur reunited with Keca this week as the 1998-born forward seriously considers his hockey future.

“It would be like any Canadian soccer player going over there and trying to play soccer,” Keca said summing it up. “You play here at a certain level, but it’s just a different world.”

Ficur wasn’t front and centre on television screens this holiday, but the forward still took part in the World Junior Hockey Championships in mid-Decmeber, collecting a pair of assists as Croatia finished sixth out of six teams in the Division II Group A Championship in Estonia.

“The conditions here are much greater than in Croatia,” said Ficur. “I’m just enjoying my time here.

“Day after day, I’m getting better with the guys. I’m getting used to it. I’m really happy to be here.”

The reunion was no coincidence. Keca’s connections to the European nation and 26th ranked country in the hockey world — 14th in soccer, if we’re comparing — still run strong more than 20 years after a professional stint in the country.

“The education that I got was nothing that I could ever get from a book or in a classroom,” noted Keca of his professional time. “It was living it. For him, that’s a decision that’s he’s going to have to make as well.”

He added Ficur had aspirations of playing for a year in Canada before attempting to join a post-secondary program south of the border.

The intensity of practice and the mandatory Tuesday yoga sessions took the forward by surprise, but it’s an experience he’s happy to drink in. Though he’s a point per game player with KHL Mladost Zagreb, a team in the Croatian Ice Hockey League that features players almost double his age, getting up to speed in the North American version of the game was an encouraging process.

“It’s a little bit tougher than in Europe,” Ficur added. “It’s more physical. I’m here to see how it works.

“Maybe I go to the college next year. That’s my dream.”

For the brief stay, which will include a trip to the West Edmonton Mall at the request of some of Ficur’s friends back home, the Barons have been accommodating.

“It’s cool to learn how different our lives are,” said defenceman Taner Miller, who has provided Ficur with drives home after practice. “He’s said it’s a lot faster than he’s used to, but I think he’s done really good.

“He’s the same as all of us on the ice, it’s just off the ice you can tell the differences.”

MOB host Kodiaks, Pontiacs

Ficur’s stay will the team will carry through this weekend as the MOB host the Camrose Kodiaks and Bonnyville Pontiacs Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Two wins to end 2016 put the Barons on a good path to being back in the hunt for the North Division lead, but they won’t matter much unless the MOB strike against two of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s best teams.

An offensively dangerous team like the Kodiaks will be trying to avoid the season series sweep while also fighting a positioning battle of their own in the South Division. With the Pontiacs, the MOB will try to score their first win on home ice against Bonnyville since Feb. 4, 2015, a streak of five straight losses.

“For whatever reason there’s just certain teams that you just don’t match up well against,” continued Keca. “They’re a team that outworks you if nothing else. They’re a team you can hit once, twice three times and they still keep coming at you.

“That relentlessness is a characteristic that we’d like to see a little bit more of in our team.”

Swedish hockey player Rasmus Dahlin impresses at world juniors

By Sean Gordon – The Globe and Mail

In case you’re wondering what the future looks like, it’s right there in the Swedish blue and gold sweater with No. 8 on the back.

You know, the fluid-skating, confident, ridiculously-gifted-with-the-puck 16-year-old named Rasmus Dahlin, about whom much will be said and written between now and the 2018 NHL draft, where his could be the first name called.

The defenceman is the youngest player to dress for Sweden at the world junior championship (by one day, but still), and the youngest in this year’s tournament.

One NHL amateur scout said he’s the best 16-year-old defenceman in living memory – “way ahead of [Ottawa Senators superstar Erik] Karlsson” at the same age.

It happens he’s taller and larger-framed than Karlsson, his favourite player, and is, in the words of TSN draft guru Craig Button, “icy” regardless of circumstance.

As long as we’re making comparisons, his skating may not be as explosive as Karlsson’s, but it’s smooth in ways reminiscent of another generational talent, former Detroit Red Wing Nicklas Lidstrom.

Perhaps the best way to describe Dahlin’s game is: Karlsson-like vision, lateral movement and attacking instincts in the offensive zone, whereas in his own end, his poise and ability to both defend and elude are Lidstrom-light.

How does it feel to be compared with a couple of the best Swedes to play the game, young Rasmus?

“I don’t really agree with it,” he said this week. “I mean, I’m just 16 years old … I’m just trying to play my game and do my best.”

Fair enough. But he’s also a 16-year-old who recently signed his first senior pro contract, an indication his days with Frolunda’s junior squad are over.

Being drafted first overall – he would become the first Swede to earn the distinction since Mats Sundin went to Quebec in 1989 – is “a dream, so I’m trying.”

Dahlin grew up in a hockey-playing family in Trollhattan, a town of 45,000 in an area that is, he said, “100-per-cent bandy” – an 11-a-side outdoor game played with a ball, not a puck, and with sticks that look better suited for field hockey than the NHL.

“The first time I was on the ice I was two years old. My dad plays hockey and my brother, too,” said Dahlin, who also has a sister (his parents made the trip to Montreal this week).

He played minor hockey down the road in Lidkoping, before moving to Frolunda, the club in nearby Gothenburg that spawned Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Lundqvist and Karlsson, among others.

Anaheim Ducks prospect Jacob Larsson, who played four games with the NHL club before being returned to Frolunda, insists Dahlin is already among the Swedish Hockey League’s standout talents.

“He’s pretty much been the same player with Frolunda as he is here,” said Larsson, the anchor of the Swedish defence at this tournament. “He’s got some sick moves when he’s skating up with the puck – he’s going to be really, really good. I mean, he’s already a good player.”

Larsson said Dahlin’s skill and evident promise have been a regular topic of conversation among the club’s senior players for at least a couple of years.

Now, others have become SHL regulars at 16 and later flattered to deceive: Former Edmonton Oilers draft Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson leaps to mind.

Much can and will happen between now and June of 2018. Confidence is breakable, knees or shoulders can give out, progressions can plateau.

Could Russian scoring machine Andrei Svechnikov or OHL forward Ryan Merkley pull ahead of Dahlin in the rankings? Could U.S. national junior program slickster Jake Wise, or CHL starlets Benoît-Olivier Groulx, Joe Veleno or Ty Smith also pull ahead of him?

They could, but none is at the best-on-best under-20 world showcase ahead of older, highly-regarded players.

That he finds himself playing against men for a powerhouse SHL club with a history of developing NHL talent augurs well.

Dahlin said this week that his expectations for the tournament were “not much.” Sweden’s coaches brought him as a seventh defenceman.

In his first game, Dahlin played just under nine minutes. In that time he chipped in a goal and an assist.

In his second, he played 12:17 and, while he didn’t score, showed plenty – his evasive manoeuvre on Switzerland fore-checker Marco Miranda early in the game was jaw-dropping – and was thrown over the boards late in the third with the Swedes chasing a go-ahead goal.

Seconds later, captain Joel Eriksson Ek scored.

He also got into a bit of a kerfuffle with 19-year-old Swiss captain Calvin Thurkauf, who yanked him to the ice with what appeared to be a slew-foot at the first-period horn.

Dahlin was having none of it, and immediately got up to challenge the older player before a teammate quickly shepherded him away.

The scouts will have ticked another box.

Hartley signs on to coach Latvia

By  The Score

Latvia has landed another high-profile coach.

Former Stanley Cup champion and Jack Adams Award winner Bob Hartley has been hired to lead the Latvian national team.

“I’m excited for the newest challenge in my career as a coach. It will be my first experience working with a national team and I’m grateful to the Latvian Hockey Federation for giving me the opportunity and confidence,” Hartley told IIHF.com’s Martin Merk.

Latvia’s former coach resigned this summer just before the program failed to qualify for the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The country’s best finish at an Olympic competition came three years prior in Sochi under the direction of longtime NHL coach Ted Nolan. That team played Canada to a 2-1 final, and eventually finished eighth.

Hartley was fired by the Calgary Flames at the end of last year after failing to return to the playoffs in his fourth season.

Bulgarian national player excels in two sports

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By Ivan TchechankovIIHF.com

The 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification starts on Monday in Taipei City. The host Chinese Taipei will make its debut in the competition and the other participating countries are Belgium, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and South Africa. One player to watch at the Annex Ice Rink is Bulgarian forward Amalia Koleva.

Koleva scored the most goals (3) for her national team a year ago when the qualification was held in Sofia and this was her best showing on the international stage. Well, not really. It’s better to say “on international ice” because she has over 80 (eighty) medals from World and European Championships in Taekwon-Do (ITF) since 2001. In 2016 Koleva won the European title in power test and silver medal in the team sparring competition in Thessaloniki. The 36-years-old athlete has a collection of 4 World (individual sparring under 57 kg in 2009, team special technique in 2011, team sparring in 2013 and individual power test in 2015) and 15 European titles.

On top of that she has two more bronze medals from the 2013 WAKO World Championships in kickboxing – kick light and light contact under 55 kg. And she competed successfully in savate (French boxing) and muay thai (the combat sport of Thailand). At one time she was on the Bulgarian national team in four different sports – taekwon-do (ITF), ice hockey, kickboxing and savate.

“Since this year I have concentrated only at taekwondo and hockey, but my schedule is so busy as before,” says Koleva, who is an international instructor and is working with 40-45 kids in three different groups. Some of them are following into her steps practising a second sport, although not ice hockey.

“I was lucky with my discovery of ice hockey, because I had some kind of background after practising figure skating as a kid. Everything happened by chance. Eight years ago, during a free skate, I was approached by Tina Lisichkova. At that time she was the captain of the Bulgarian national women’s team and was looking for new players,” recalls Koleva. After one month she was playing international games. The beginning was quite difficult with nightmarish losses at the Olympic Qualification in Latvia.

It must be hard for her to accept defeats on the ice after so much success in taekwon-do. “Actually, hockey is relaxing for me. It’s a great pleasure to play this exciting game and to know that you can count on your teammates. In taekwon-do you’re alone and you suffer from every error that you make. I don’t like to lose, but I know the reality in Bulgarian women’s ice hockey. Most of the girls have started at age 17-18 and that’s too late for hockey. Now the top players have to train and prepare the next generations from very early age and then we’ll see a difference,” says Koleva, but she doesn’t think that she is quite good to be a hockey coach.

Contrary to the expectation Koleva thinks that hockey is giving her some edge in taekwon-do instead of the opposite: “We are under enormous pressure in taekwon-do, because everyone thinks that we have to win medals and if you don’t do it – it’s a tragedy. I have the opposite situation in hockey and now I’m bringing this mental approach to my taekwon-do career – it is not a big deal if I screwed up. Not that happened to me recently.”

Koleva is 160 cm tall and stands quite strong on her skates. When there is a physical contact, the opponent is falling on the ice almost every time. “It comes from inside of me. I have the flair for this stuff, how to approach these situations. Taekwon-do and hockey are contact sports, although in different aspects,” thinks Koleva. Body-checking is not allowed in women’s hockey, but sometimes she can’t resist the temptation and then has to sit in the penalty box.

Koleva still has the motivation to practise two sports (taekwon-do at ABC Fight Club and hockey at NSA) and is joking that she even has free time: “The stress on the body is different, the time of the practices and the competition period too, so I can combine the sports. There are days in which I have to work with the kids and to practise taekwon-do or ice hockey, but one day a week I have all three commitments. During the weekend I’m working at an artificial ice rink in the mall.” For some time Monday was sort of her off-day with only one taekwon-do practice.

The Bulgarian national women’s team flew to Taipei City yesterday and the main focus is to stop the streak of seven straight defeats in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship program. The last win dates back to 21st March 2014 – 4-2 against Hong Kong.

“Our best chance is the first game on Monday against the hosts as they are making their debut. Hong Kong already had two games in the Olympic Qualification this season and we didn’t participate, so they are ahead in the preparation for sure. We had some good moments against them and South Africa last year, but lost both games. I hope that it will be closer this time around,” said Koleva before leaving for her first trip to Chinese Taipei.

They play hockey in Estonia? RoughRiders winger Robert Arrak proves they do

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By Jeff Johnson – The Gazette

There are only a handful of rinks in his home country.

“Maybe five or six,” Robert Arrak said. “We’ve got maybe five, six, seven teams.”

The accurate number is four teams that play in Estonia’s highest league. Let’s just say this kid definitely is the exception.

A hockey player.

“It’s not big there,” the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward said. “My father played, my brother played, so I decided to try it, too. I was really young when I started skating. Like 3 years old.”

Here he is playing in the top junior league in the United States, with aspirations of someday playing college hockey. Ascending beyond college hockey, to tell the truth.

The tall and lanky 17-year-old is on the Central Scouting Service’s list of European players available for the 2017 National Hockey League Draft. He’s a “C” prospect, or someone projected to possibly be selected in the middle to lower rounds.

That’s why he’s here, actually. If you want to play in the NHL, you move closer to it.

“There are more scouts and coaches watching games from the NHL and college hockey here,” Arrak said.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder only has played in four games with the RoughRiders, but it appears Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson pulled off quite the coup when he convinced Arrak to make the move a couple of weeks ago from his junior team in Finland. Arrak has shown off a slick, skilled and advanced game, including notching the winning goal this past weekend against Madison.

Cedar Rapids (3-16-2) plays a road game Thursday night against the older of the United States National Team Development Program’s two teams, then is at Youngstown on Friday and Saturday nights.

“He’s a ballplayer,” smiled Carlson.

That’s hockey speak for someone who is good.

“He’s got a good attitude,” Carlson said. “I think he wants to get better every day. He’s working really hard. I think he’s got the chance to be a really well-rounded player. He shoots well, sees the ice, he’s good pretty good hands, can shoot it. He’s a young kid, so he’s got a long way to go. But there is a lot of upside there.”

“I love this place,” Arrak said. “It’s a good place, good guys on the team. It is a good league here, the USHL. Good games.”

Arrak had been in the U.S. only once prior to making the move to Cedar Rapids. That was to a camp in the Detroit area.

He speaks good English, thanks to studying it in school when he was young. He has spent the last handful of years playing in neighboring Finland, away from his family in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital.

“It wasn’t that hard to convince him to come here,” Carlson said. “I think he understood the opportunity here and the exposure. He wants to play in the National Hockey League, and he felt the United States Hockey League was the best league to play in. This is the best opportunity for him to keep growing.”

Carlson was asked if it was realistic to think Arrak could someday be his country’s second NHL player. Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs is the only Estonian-born player to make it to the NHL thus far.

“That’s a long ways away,” he said. “But I think he’s got a realistic shot to get drafted. It’s up to him as to how hard he wants to work.”

Cedar Rapids has won three games in a row after an 18-game losing streak to begin the season. That includes a sweep of Madison, 4-1 and 2-1, last weekend.

“The kids are working,” Carlson said. “I think we’ve played some pretty good hockey here the last couple three weeks. We’re chipping away.”

Latvia Finishes Off Pre-Tournament Series With Victory

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

Latvia was able to defeat Kazakhstan 3-0 on Thursday in U20 action, finishing off the two-game exhibition series with an aggregate score of 4-4.

Using mainly reserve players while the top Latvian stars were away with their usual clubs, the newly-appointed top division squad played a stronger exhibition game on Thursday. Unlike Wednesday’s contest, that saw them show almost strength in a 4-1 loss to Kazakhstan, Latvia forced their opponents into a tough situation in the first period. While no goals were scored, Latvia peppered goaltender Anton Bruyev with chances in the best period of hockey in the exhibition series for the Latvians.

After a good back and forth battle in the second, Latvia appeared to have scored with eight minutes left in the second. Valters Apfelbaums, who had a solid rush early in the first period, kept with a scramble that saw him finally tip the puck over at the last second, but the whistle blew just before due to the refs no longer seeing the puck in the crease.

Latvia finally saw themselves in the lead for the first time in the exhibition series with three minutes to go. Desperate to take the lead, Roberts Štelmahers finally jammed one in past Bruyev to make it 1-0 for the Latvians just prior to heading to the intermission.

At 3:34 of the period, Latvia doubled up their advantage. This time, Eduards Fjodorovs used Eduards Hugo Jansons as a screen in front of the net before firing a hard shot from the point. Bruyev had no chance of keeping the puck out of the net, giving Latvia the 2-0 lead with most of the third period still to play.

Elvis Dins Kalnbērziņš isn’t a favorite to make the World Junior team for Latvia, but he sure helped his case by making it 3-0. Having helped out with Latvia’s second goal just minutes later, Kalnbērziņš put the game out of reach after tapping in the pass from Haralds Štrombergs just eight minutes into the third. Denijs Romanovskis would hold on in Latvia’s net for the shutout, leading his country to a 3-0 victory on Thursday.

Latvia will play Denmark in a pre-tournament game on December 22nd at the Centre Multisport in Châteauguay, Quebec, not far from one of the World Junior locations in Montreal. Latvia will begin their run in the top tournament on December 26th when they start Toronto off with a 3:30 PM start against Team USA. 

Marion Allemoz feels at home in Montreal

Marion Allemoz, center, with Les Canadiennes teammates
Sophie Brault, left, and Cassandra Poudrier, right.

By Michaela Schreids – The Ice Garden

Moving far away from home is never easy. Living in a new country, away from family and friends, can be overwhelming. But when you move to a hockey-loving city to play hockey, it’s easier to feel like you made the right choice. And that’s probably why Marion Allemoz has fit in so well in Montreal.

The 27-year-old forward for Les Canadiennes moved to Canada from France in 2013 to play for the University of Montreal. It was with the Carabins that Allemoz won two CIS national championships in 2013 and 2016. She was even named team captain in 2015, leading them to their second championship in three years. It was exactly the challenge that Allemoz was looking for.

“I’d been looking to play abroad for a little while because I wanted to experience something new and I wanted to play in a tougher women’s championship,” said Allemoz. “I had the opportunity to come and play for the Université de Montréal’s Carabins so I seized that chance.”

After her university hockey career ended, Allemoz joined Les Canadiennes de Montreal for the 2016-17 season. So far this season, she has helped Les Canadiennes to a 7-2 record, giving them second place in the CWHL. With plenty of expectations on Montreal this season, it remains to be seen whether or not she’ll help them to a Clarkson Cup championship.

 Allemoz was the first player from the French national program to move to Canada in order to play hockey. She won a bronze medal with Team France at the 2015 IIHF Division I Women’s World Championships. So far, she feels well adjusted to the Canadian style of hockey.

“Obviously it took some time to adapt because the North American game is different from the one in Europe. It’s more robust and physical because the referees let you play a bit more. The game is also faster.”

A self-described defensively aware player, Allemoz wants to face the best of the best. In joining the CWHL, her goal is to play with and against some of the best in the world. With teammates like Marie-Philip Poulin and opponents like Toronto’s Natalie Spooner, she’s achieved her goal so far.

 Being far away from home can make one question the initial decision to leave, but it seems like Allemoz has fit right in with Montreal. She loves the city; it’s safe to say the city – and its hockey team – feel the same way.

Italy looking forward to comeback in Cologne

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By Szabolcs Zavodszky IIHF.com

After starting this initiative at the start of the 2014/15 season, Italy has won promotion back to the top division after a second-place finish at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Katowice, Poland.

“We are such a close group of guys. We have a lot of fun when we are in national team camps and when we go to tournaments. To fight for each other is the most important thing on the ice. We can get a lot of energy out of this,” says national team captain Anton Bernard, who has been through the changes and has played in two top-level World Championships in 2012 and 2014.

For the Bolzano native, whose brother Andreas is one of the national team goalies, the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Cologne and Paris could be the sixth consecutive World Championship tournament including Division I.

“We have a young team but it is still a process. We struggle to score goals but we have good goaltending. We just need to be more patient,” he continues.

With the national team concentrating on home-grown talent there is an influx of younger players as well as new players who are happy to play for their home nation. “We are a pretty young team, we have players now that want to be here and want to earn a spot on the team,” says Tommaso Traversa. “To me it doesn’t matter where they are from, whether they were born in Italy or not, as long as they know the identity that we have. They play for the team and the jersey that they are wearing. This is how it was last year. We gave everything no matter what and we got promoted.“

This is process and a lot has happened in the past two seasons under coach Stefan Mair. Not only was the ice hockey community surprised by this but so were the players.

“It was a surprise for us that we made it to the top division especially after we had lost to both Austria and Slovenia. We didn’t think we could still make it. We had some help from other teams towards the end,” Bernard remembers the tournament last spring in Katowice.

However, it looks like they embrace the underdog role that they have been cast in according to the team captain.

“We will be going to the World Championships with an underdog mentality and we know there is a lot of work still to do,” Bernard says. “We still have a camp in February and probably a long one before the World Championship begins. There are lot of new guys who will be playing in the top division for the first time and they’ll be very excited. We are still the underdogs for sure.”

The youth movement looks to be here to stay. Coach Mair again used a rather young roster during the international break in November at the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Budapest.

“There are some young players that will get a real chance heading into the World Championship,” he says and expects a mix of young players and some with experience in the top division. Bernard is a player that Mair can expect to be a leader both on and off the ice.

“There are some responsibilities that come with being the captain. You just need to step up with some of the other guys. In the past we have always had older players with international experience. They are not here anymore so it is now up to us to step up and move on,” the 27-year-old says.

It will be interesting to see how Italy will perform at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship as the underdog. Italy has played in the top division without interruption between 1992 and 2002 and from 2006 until 2008. Since 2008 the national team was relegated each time it played including 2010, 2012 and 2014. But don’t be surprised if they pull off a couple of upsets.

In the preliminary round the squadra azzurra will play in Cologne in a group with Russia, the United States, Sweden, Slovakia, host Germany, Latvia and Denmark.

 

Austria goes with Bader

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By Martin Merk – IIHF.com

Roger Bader will coach the Austrian men’s national team for the remainder of the season it was confirmed after a board meeting of the Austrian Ice Hockey Association. He will also continue to serve as head coach of the U20 national team.

Bader is already the third head coach for the men’s national team this year. After Dan Ratushny left Austria to coach Lausanne HC of the Swiss NLA, sport director and veteran coach Alpo Suhonen was leading the team in the Final Olympic Qualification in Riga, Latvia, in September but after the unsatisfactory results Roger Bader was chosen to coach the team at least for the recent Euro Ice Hockey Challenge tournament in Budapest, Hungary. Now his assignment has been extended for the remainder of the season.

The 52-year-old Swiss spent his coaching career in Switzerland until 2013 where he was coaching senior hockey club teams but also several junior national teams including being head coach at three U18 World Championships.

Since 2014 he has been working for the Austrian Ice Hockey Association as U20 national team coach, development coach and mentor for club coaches – duties that he will continue. He has also been the assistant coach of the men’s national team since last season and at the Olympic Qualification in September.

Last year he led Austria to a silver medal at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A. The U20 team will be his next task as it battles for promotion to the top division at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division I Group A in Bremerhaven, Germany, from 11 to 17 December against Belarus, Kazakhstan, Norway, Germany and France.

“Roger Bader has already had some success as U20 national team coach and successfully led a very young [men’s national] team at the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge. We become convinced that we want to continue working with him. We expect a continuous development of the Austrian national team and the assignment of young players as it has been the case in Budapest,” President Gernot Mittendorfer said.

“I feel honoured and glad to get the confidence to continue working as head coach of the Austrian national team,” said Bader. “I’m very proud and will pursue the assignment with due respect.”

The Austrian men’s national team will host another tournament of the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge, the Osterreich Cup, from 6-12 February in Graz with France, Norway and Slovakia.

From 22 to 28 April the Austrians will battle for promotion at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Kyiv with Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Korea and host Ukraine.

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