Ice Blacks head coach Anatoly Khorozov has named the squad that will be traveling to Granada for April’s IIHF Division 2 – Group B World Championship. At the tournament New Zealand will be facing the hosts Spain along with Israel, Luxembourg, Mexico, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The 2018 New Zealand national men’s ice hockey team is as follows.
Goalies: Daniel Lee, Csaba Kercso-Magos.
Defence: Nick Craig, Oliver Hay, Stefan Amston, Kahu Joyce, Gareth McLeish, Tristan Darling, Andrew Hay, Cameron Trew (non-traveling reserve).
Forwards: Matthew Schneider, Jake Ratcliffe, Alex Polozov, Andrew Cox, Paris Heyd, Nick Henderson, Dale Harrop, Callum Burns, Frazer Ellis, Jordan Challis, Taylor Rooney, Shaun Harrison, Connor Harrison, Jeremy Chai (non-traveling reserve).
This roster comes from the 36-player strong training squad that was announced back in October. A few notable omissions include Stampede goaltender Aston Brookes, Red Devils defenceman Mason Kennedy, and the Swarm’s Michael Attwell. Brookes and Kennedy were unavailable due to other commitments, while Attwell remains sidelined with an injury that will require surgery.
The tournament will be the first for Khorozov as head coach, prior to this year he served as assistant coach under Maru Rout.
He shared his thoughts on the selection process by saying, “It’s always tough to make the cuts and yes, sometimes those decisions make some people unhappy. Sometimes, circumstances do that for me and injuries or other commitments take some players off the list. But that’s my job to assemble the best team possible and so I have to make those calls.”
Prior to arriving in Spain, the team will travel together to Latvia for a brief training camp, as did their under-20 counterparts back in January.
The Ice Blacks first game of the tournament is against rivals Mexico on April 15 at midnight NZDT, followed by Israel the next day also at midnight. The team will have a rest day before playing Luxembourg on April 18 at 2:30am, then DPR Korea at the same time on April 20. Finally, New Zealand will wrap up round robin play against hosts Spain with arguably the more friendly start time of 6am – perfect for fans back home that want to start their Saturday (April 21) with some international ice hockey.
When Puck Yeah interviewed Khorozov back in October, he stated the team’s ultimate goal was to move up a division in the IIHF rankings within two seasons. That would see New Zealand face much tougher opposition, a true test of where the nation currently stands in the hockey world. Right now, the next division up (IIHF Division 2 – Group A) features Belgium, China, Iceland, the Netherlands, Serbia, plus Trans-Tasman neighbours Australia.
But before that can become a reality, this group of players have to conquer their current division first.
In regards to what lies ahead for the Ice Blacks, Khorozov stated, “We have played all these teams numerous times in the past, so we’re familiar with all of them. Luxembourg was quite awhile ago…but all other teams are our regular opponents. I believe that we should aim for the gold medal as we should be competitive with all of them.”
New Zealand has proved they can compete with their opposition by claiming silver in last year’s World Championships in Auckland. Now it’s time to turn that confidence and belief into results.
(Main photo: Winter Games NZ)