Day: January 2, 2024

Gen playing for Aussies in world championship

Forward Daniel O’Handley is playing for Australia at the IIHF Division II U20 men’s world championships.

Source : Cochrane Now

Cochrane Generals forward Daniel O’Handley heads out Thursday to join his teammates on Australia’s men’s U20 team to prepare for the IIHF Division II world championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

The 18-year forward journeyed from Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, to join the Gens this season, along with his older brother Morris, who plays defence. He’s no stranger to representing his country in international competition, playing in the U18 IIHF Div. 2 world championship last spring.

“It’s a great opportunity,” says O’Handley, “To represent my country is always a great honour and I look forward to it.”

The team will be training for about 10 days in Milan, Italy before heading to Belgrade, where the the world championship opens on Jan. 14.

He says the training will help the team gel before the tournament gets underway. He did play with a few of them at last spring’s world championship.

The O’Handley brothers signed with the Gens this fall. Before arriving here, they last played with the Adelaide Adrenaline in the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL). 

O’Handley says it’s something like a semi-pro league, with the top players in the country. No one gets paid, but many advance to Australia’s national teams.

He says there comes a point that if you want to get better at the sport, you have to leave Australia. 

“In the summer, there’s not much ice at all. so if you want to keep working on your game, you have to go somewhere else, which is kind of where I’m at right now.”

He says the Canadian game is faster and you have to work harder if you want to succeed.

“There’s so much more competition to make teams, so I think they compete at a much higher level, and it’s a lot more physical. I’ve noticed in Australia you can get away with a lot of stuff because the guys aren’t really playing physically, but here you’ve got to be a bit more switched on because guys are looking to throw body checks and stuff when they can.”

Gens head coach Kurtis Jones says O’Handley’s game has continued to improve since the beginning of the season.

“He’s an impact player, and he’s been playing very well for the last couple of months,” says Jones. “He’s starting to bring his game and feel a little bit more comfortable with us and the terminology and what kind of coach I am. Our goal is to help him succeed.”

Jones says they will lose him from the roster for the better part of January, but they’ll be watching and cheering him on at the Worlds.

“It will be a good experience for him and hopefully he’ll learn lots there and maybe bring some of that back to share with our coaching staff.”

O’Handley says he feels at home with the Gens.

“The guys are great, the staff is great. With the Gens, you do plenty in the community. At Christmas, we were helping families and we do lots of other stuff, so I’ve got to know a lot of people in the community. It’s been really good.”

He says the Gens got off to a strong start this season but recently has run into trouble against some of the top teams in the league due to injuries.

“I think when we have our full lineup, we’re pretty good. We’re all on the same page now so I think after Christmas everyone will be back and we’ll be ready to go.”

His brother Morris is one of the players who has been sidelined with an injury and has only recently returned to the ice. Morris has twice appeared with Australia’s U20 team at the world championship.

O’Handley has been playing since he was five and was introduced to the sport at a young age by his father Ryan, who played hockey growing up here before going on to play and coach at a high level in Australia.

“He got me on skates and then I kind of fell in love with it.”

At 6’1″, 201 lbs., O’Handley has appeared in 19 games with the Gens, with two goals, seven assists, and 20 penalty minutes.

Japan’s Akane Shiga making North American debut with PWHL Ottawa

Shiga scores against Finland goalkeeper Anni Keisala during a women’s quarterfinal hockey game at the 2022 Olympics

By Celeste Decaire – CBC News

Ottawa’s Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) team has both the new league’s youngest player and its only Japanese player in the same pair of skates.

Akane Shiga, 22, is poised to make her North American pro debut Tuesday night at a sold-out TD Place arena against Montreal.

“I’m still learning English and there’s a long way to go, but just with help from everyone else and the teammates being very thoughtful of the language barriers … I think the communication part has been better than I expected,” she said through translator Madoka Suzuki

According to head coach Carla MacLeod, the language barrier has hardly been a setback.

“[At the] end of the day, the language that we speak is hockey,” MacLeod said, adding that Shiga speaks it very well. 

The defender converted to forward and made her senior national team debut in the 2019 world championship. She then played in the 2022 Olympics, where her team won its group and suffered its only regulation loss in the quarterfinal.

Japan beat Czechia 3-2 in group play that tournament and MacLeod was behind the Czech bench as head coach.

“Obviously she’s an elite athlete within the sport, so it’s easy enough to sort of teach her the hockey side [as she’s] very visual. You can use video, you can draw, you can demo,” MacLeod said. 

Ottawa’s bench boss was also an assistant for the Japanese team at the Sochi Olympics in 2014. Spending a few years in the country, she picked up some words that she uses to give feedback to Shiga. 

“I can randomly speak some Japanese to Akane and she just shakes her head and smiles because she knows I’m just being kind of a dork, but [I’m] trying to be inclusive that way too.” 

All in all, it’s Shiga’s skill that makes her stand out. She started playing hockey at the age of six. 

“I started playing hockey outside, just kind of like pond hockey style, and then just kept playing. I had ambitions to play overseas eventually,” Shiga said.

“So when the opportunity came to try out for Ottawa, it was a no-brainer.”

The hockey competition in North America is much stiffer than in Japan, making Shiga’s leap to the PWHL that much more remarkable.

“I just think that the dream is now available to all of us,” MacLeod said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Canada, US or Japan or [Czechia] or Germany or Hungary. You have opportunities in our game.”

Shiga made the team out of training camp and has been noted as one of the players to watch for this season. She said her family and friends will be cheering her on, but mostly from a distance.

Here in Ottawa, her nationality is getting recognition from the Ambassador of Japan to Canada.

“A woman, just on her own coming to Ottawa, becoming the big player? She can change the world,”  said Yamanouchi Kanji.

“I think that is a great source for younger generations and also a symbol of the friendship between Canada and Japan — friendship on ice.”

His advice for Shiga this season is simple.

“No matter what they say, just be yourself. Have confidence and do your best.”

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