Ice Blacks announce wider training squad for 2018

New Zealand’s national men’s ice hockey team, the Ice Blacks, have named their wider training squad in preparation for traveling to Spain for the 2018 IIHF Divison IIB World Championship in April.

Goalies: Daniel Lee, Aston Brookes, Csaba Kercso-Magos.

Defence: Nick Craig, Blake Jackson, Jamie Lawrence, Mitchell Frear, Ollie Hay, Stefan Helmersson, AJ Spiller, Gareth McLeish, Mason Kennedy, Remy Sandoy, Kahu Joyce, Cameron Trew, Andrew Hay.

Forwards: Matthew Schneider, Jacob Ratcliffe, Alex Polozov, Andew Cox, Paris Heyd, Chris Eaden, Nick Henderson, Dale Harrop, Callum Burns, Ryan Ruddle, Jordan Challis, Frazer Ellis, Connor Harrison, Kevin Jagau, Adam Soffer, Micheal Attwell, Taylor Rooney, Martin Lee, Tristan Darling, Jeremy Chai.

Breaking down the selections by NZIHL teams, the West Auckland Admirals have the most with twelve. While the Dunedin Thunder, Skycity Stampede, Canterbury Red Devils and Botany Swarm have four, seven, two, and seven respectively. Outside of New Zealand, the AIHL’s Perth Thunder is the playing home of Andrew Cox.

There are two notable omissions from the announcement – recent captain Bert Haines and veteran goalie Rick Parry. Since the 2017 Winter Games in Queenstown, Haines has decided to hang up the skates and focus on starting a family along with his promising business opportunities, meanwhile Parry is unavailable due to family commitments.

The Ice Blacks are looking to build upon their recent impressive outings against Australia – it’s now the job of newly promoted head coach Anatoly Khorozov to take this team and push their development further.

The traveling team will be announced on February 12 next year. With thirty-six players named today, it’s fair to say there may be a few cuts that might disappoint some, but will ultimately show what direction this Ice Blacks team is heading in under a new coach.

We reached out to Anatoly for a few questions via email.

The addition of Matthew Schneider adds a strong scoring touch for the Ice Blacks. Photo: Kate Harrison.

Congratulations on becoming the new head coach for the Ice Blacks, what do you bring to the table that will help New Zealand rise higher in the international hockey ranks?

Thank you. It is with great honour and pride that I begin my new journey with the Ice Blacks as a Head coach. I guess the main thing is a continuity. Basically, we will try to build on what’s already been done starting last season rather than get new things out there.

Different hockey coaches use different systems to get the win, what would you say is ‘Anatoly hockey’?

‘Anatoly hockey’ is very simple – it’s the modern style of play that is adapted to the skill set and talent we have.

You’ve been involved with the NZ game for quite some time now, in your eyes how much has the sport of ice hockey grown in this country and what do you think can be done to increase its popularity?

True. 15 years to be exact. The level of the game has gone up big time. In regards to popularity, it’s a complex issue really. If I try to compress it into one phrase – we need more ice rinks as the first step.

What’s in store for the Ice Blacks in 2018?

Our ultimate goal is to move up a division in the IIHF rankings within two seasons. (New Zealand is currently in Division II B)

Under your tenure as head coach, what are you hoping to achieve with this team?

I’m hoping to change boys’ attitude in the first place. Historically, it has been more of ‘who can afford to go’ club rather than truly being the national team – this needs to change.

Players must understand that they need to be good enough to make it into the national team and they need to compete for that spot as only the best will make it. Once this message is received by all the players and administration, we will become a much stronger team.

In the hockey world, who are some other coaches you admire?

Quite a few to be honest. But if I had to choose a top 3… Firstly, my mentor legendary Russian coach Victor Tikhonov, the only coach who won both the Stanley Cup and Gagarin Cup, Mike Keenan, and Roger Rönnberg.

With Bert Haines retiring, do you have anyone in mind for the captaincy role with the Ice Blacks?

Sure. We have quite a few guys who are mature enough and are ready to step up into a leadership role.

Having Matthew Schneider now available to play for New Zealand, how has that strengthened this Ice Blacks side?

Matt is a huge asset for the team without a doubt. He’s a natural leader both on and off the ice and I believe he’s got a lot to bring to the table. I’m looking forward to working with Matt.

Long-time Ice Blacks goalie Rick Parry was unavailable to join the squad due to other commitments, is the starting goalie position completely up for grabs between the three goalies you announced for this squad or do you have someone in mind?

Nope. All three have a 33.33 percent chance, it’s all in their own hands so everything will come down to their attitude and fitness.

All the NZIHL teams are well represented in the Ice Blacks – do you think at this moment New Zealand ice hockey is stronger than its ever been?

We can only say if were strong enough after we accomplish our mission at the world championships and achieve our goal (of promotion). Everything else is just words if you know what I mean.

Lastly, would you like to see an annual test series with Australia?


Main photo: Kate Harrison