HIGHLIGHTS: New Zealand U18s and Israel close in tournament opener

The New Zealand Under-18s got their mission for gold underway overnight with a closely fought battle against Israel at the 2019 IIHF Under-18 Div3A World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Israel opened the scoring before the New Zealand powerplay was able to grab a lead with their opponents racking up the penalties. A surge of offence in the second period would lead to overtime for the decider.

Watch the highlights above for a wrap of the action. New Zealand face Turkey next at 3:30am NZ time tonight.

Main photo: James Allan

Ice Fernz rookie Terryn Bruce’s position swap already a success

While the 2019 Ice Fernz squad features an experienced and battle-tested leadership group hungry to win a gold medal, there’s also a strong rookie presence this year with six.

For Terryn Bruce, who was initially named as part of the non-travelling squad before receiving the late call up, the feeling of representing New Zealand at the senior level for the first time is surreal.

“This is my first year playing with the Ice Fernz, very excited. It’s my first time going to Austria and Romania, so I can’t wait to play with the team and see the sights, all that kind of stuff,” said Bruce.

While Terryn has previously played for the NZ Under-18s, the Bruce family name will be familiar amongst inline hockey circles as well. Her father Bruce represented the country as recently as last year, playing in-goal during the Vets World Championship in the Czech Republic.

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Terryn’s father Gary Bruce (pictured front row, 4th in) and the NZ Vets inline hockey team.

In the NZWIHL, Terryn plays for the Auckland Steel and this year her coach Rachel Park, who also happens to be the new national head coach, issued Bruce a challenge – to shift from the blue line and play forward instead.

“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a change,” Terryn joked. “I think I played pretty well. I enjoyed it, definitely a different challenge. Playing forward was really exciting being in the thick of it.”

When comparing her stats during this transition phase, the numbers would suggest that the experiment has indeed worked as intended.

Playing 12 games on the backend during the 2018 season, Terryn scored two assists, registered two shots and was a -2. Then as a forward in 2019, playing the same amount of games she scored 4 goals, 1 assist, while taking 23 shots and finishing up as a +6.

In a campaign where the Steel’s dominance of the league was being challenged by the inevitable 2019 champion Southern Storm, that level of progress should be encouraging for the young Aucklander and Coach Park stands behind the decision.

“She’s an absolute force in front of the net. She draws in players, draws in the penalties and you just can’t get her out of there so it’s great,” said Park.

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Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Bruce isn’t the only Ice Fernz rookie that has changed positions to fit within Park’s system for the upcoming IIHF Division 2B Women’s World Championship in Brasov, Romania.

Danielle Strayer has come off a strong NZWIHL season with the Storm, finishing as the top-ranked goaltender with an undefeated 5-0 record, .959 SV%, 1.02 GAA plus a shutout against Auckland. However with Grace Harrison and Lochlyn Hyde already taking up the two goalie spots, Strayer has been challenged by the head coach to play defence instead.

That sort of decision-making has the potential to turn into a stroke of genius for Park if either Harrison or Hyde fall to injury or illness and need to be rested – Strayer can serve as an emergency backup without missing a step.

It’s a vision that the players are getting behind and they’re not afraid to test themselves if that means the Ice Fernz become a stronger side for it.

“It’s really different learning the systems all over again as a forward instead of a D, but it’s good because you have a lot of support on the ice as opposed to when you’re (playing) defence or goalie – you’re the last port of call. As long as you backcheck and rectify the mistake, you’ll be sweet,” said Bruce.

There is a definite air of excitement amongst the team, one that will serve them well if the Ice Fernz manage to gel together during their six-day training camp in St Polten, Austria. If everything clicks there, then the possibility of coming home with a gold medal around their neck is an obtainable goal for this 22-strong squad.

2019 Ice Fernz Game Schedule

April 1: NZ v Chinese Taipei at 11pm
April 3: NZ v Iceland at 2:30am
April 5: NZ v Turkey at 2:30am
April 6: NZ v Romania at 6am
April 7: NZ v Croatia at 11pm

Depending on the availability of live streams, Puck Yeah will have game highlights available on our YouTube channel.

Main photo: Paul Harrison

NZIHF appoint Director of Women’s Hockey ahead of Ice Fernz campaign

The future of women’s hockey is currently at the forefront of discussion in North America – the growing success of the CWHL and NWHL sees the topic of an inevitable merger for a singular national women’s hockey league coming up more and more.

Here in New Zealand, it’s no different – except for the scale of operations of course. A recent Puck Yeah poll suggests that the majority of local hockey fans would support an expanded NZWIHL when the time is right.

The key factor there is developing a deep enough talent pool. One that can eventually become sustainable with the next generation coming through and challenging the current guard for roster spots on the national women’s team, the Ice Fernz.

That is going to require some serious recruiting and promotional efforts by the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation when the sport remains on the outside looking in compared to other female codes in this country.

While the NZWIHL is beneficial in preparing our nation’s best, the season passed by between late January and early March this year with little fanfare – if you blinked, you missed it. The mainstream media coverage was severely lacking, but don’t blame the big four of TVNZ, Mediaworks, Stuff and NZME for that. If the NZIHF isn’t proactive in promoting their product, then what chance does the women’s game have of enjoying a higher profile?

For the women’s league to achieve the level of success seen by their Australian counterparts at the AWIHL, let alone the CWHL or NWHL, there needs to be an all-in attitude from those involved to make the NZWIHL more visible.

Well, proactivity is here. The NZIHF have recently appointed Victoria Buckley as their new Director of Women’s Hockey.

Buckley’s credentials include Canterbury Minor Ice Hockey President and Secretary. During her time as CMIH President, Buckley was instrumental in implementing the NZIHF’s ‘First Shift’ initiative in the region, along with establishing a Mites league (Under-8s) to address the need for those new age-group players to have their own competition.

That ‘can do’ attitude and ability to get things done could be hugely beneficial for New Zealand women’s ice hockey going forward. But for now, the attention turns to the Ice Fernz.

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Photo: Elvar Freyr

Come April 1 the Fernz begin their World Championship campaign against last year’s silver medalists Chinese Taipei. NZ will also face Iceland, Turkey, Romania and Croatia in their bid to win gold and gain promotion to the IIHF’s Division 2 – Group A.

Today the team departs for a training camp in Austria before proceeding onto Brasov, Romania for the real deal.

Puck Yeah recently interviewed new Ice Fernz head coach Rachel Park for a podcast that will be released next Wednesday. The Ontario native also runs the bench for the Auckland Steel team that features a strong contingent of national representatives for both ice and inline.

One player of note that Park is excited to have on her roster is Jasmine Horner-Pascoe – the Auckland forward finished second in NZWIHL scoring this year with 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) in 12 games.

The new head coach praised Horner-Pascoe’s puck-handling abilities, “Her hands are just magical. She’s full of surprising dangles and I’d even say she’s probably the best I’ve seen on the ice in terms of a female player (in New Zealand) with those kinds of hands.”

The return of Helen Murray is another highlight of what Park considers to be a very solid roster despite a 25% attrition rate, describing the captain as someone who is ‘consistent on the ice and a great leader.’

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Photo: Elvar Freyr

New Zealand’s offence is further bolstered by the return of Caitlin Heale.

Heale came out with top scoring honours in last year’s tournament with 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists). Across just five games, those numbers highlight what this side is capable of and can be the difference between a medal placing and relegation. But after a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2018, the Ice Fernz will be out to prove they deserve that elusive IIHF promotion.

The turning point could come from the goal crease. The addition of Grace Harrison to the goalie ranks, alongside Lochlyn Hyde, sees a strong tandem in play with the number one starting role up for grabs at training camp.

Hyde finished the 2019 NZWIHL season with a .914 save percentage and 2.73 goals against average over nine games with the Steel – good enough to finish third in goaltending ranks behind the Southern Storm’s dynamic duo of Jordan Wichman and Danielle Strayer, who is making the switch to defence for the Fernz.

Grace Harrison recently wrapped up her senior season at St. Lawrence University with a 9-7-5 record while enjoying a .922 SV%, 2.18 GAA and two shutouts. That stat line remained relatively consistent throughout her 96-game NCAA Division I career with a GAA reaching as low as 1.62 and a top SV% of .923 – both coming from her sophomore year.

Harrison was exceptionally dominant in net this past January. Amounting a staggering .970 SV% and 0.76 GAA while going undefeated with a 3-0-1 record, her performance was recognised by the Women’s Hockey Commissioners’ Association with the ‘National Goalie of the Month’ award.

Coach Park sees Harrison’s collegiate experience as being invaluable to the team. “As a goaltender you see the entire ice. She’s going to be able to identify what’s breaking down, what’s working and also (bringing) that leadership perspective. The girls really appreciate what she’s been able to accomplish over there,” Park stated.

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Photo: Carol Hill

To be successful in this tournament Park believes the team needs to ‘mesh as a squad and get on the same system’ while also working on being more aggressive on the puck to match the increased intensity of international hockey, plus learning to counter their opponent’s tactics more effectively to create stronger scoring chances.

After my interview with Rachel Park wrapped up I felt like I came away from it having learnt more about the current state of the women’s game and hopefully you will too.

The Ice Fernz are an important part of growing the game in New Zealand, and as a country that loves to back a winner, a gold medal in Romania would go a long way to raising the team’s profile on the nation’s busy sporting landscape.

2019 Ice Fernz Traveling Squad

Forwards:
Harriet Fuller, Kirstin Gerken, Hope Gregory, Abbey Heale, Caitlin Heale, Jasmine Horner-Pascoe, Helen Murray, Caitlin Orr, Jemma Read, Reagyn Shattock, Hannah Shields.

Defence:
Terryn Bruce, Hannah Cross, Jaime Jones, Rebecca Lilly, Rikki-Lee McLean, Rachael Neville-Lamb, Ashley Richmond, Danielle Strayer, Krystie Woodyear-Smith.

Goalies:
Grace Harrison, Lochlyn Hyde

2019 Ice Fernz Game Schedule

April 1: NZ v Chinese Taipei at 11pm
April 3: NZ v Iceland at 2:30am
April 5: NZ v Turkey at 2:30am
April 6: NZ v Romania at 6am
April 7: NZ v Croatia at 11pm

Depending on the availability of live streams, Puck Yeah will have game highlights available on our YouTube channel.

Main Photo: Elvar Freyr

New Zealand Under-18s set sights on Bulgaria

Today the New Zealand Under-18s will be living the hockey dream for the next two weeks as they fly out to Romania for training camp ahead of the 2019 IIHF Under-18 World Championship in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Competing in the ‘Division 3 – Group A’ tier, New Zealand will be up against Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Iceland and hosts Bulgaria with their first game taking place on March 26 at 3:30am (NZ time). Full team schedule is listed below.

Earlier this week I interviewed Head Coach Steve Reid via Messenger to find out how things are shaping up for the Under-18s.

Last year the Under-18s played in a 3-team tournament which New Zealand won to gain promotion to Div 3A, how much of an adjustment is it for the team to go from a small competition like that to a standard IIHF format? Does that change how the team prepares?

Yeah absolutely, the longer tournament is a first for some of these boys. They will need to look after themselves while we are away, eat well, drink lots of water and keep their vitamins up. They will need to recover and look after their bodies, which we will help them with along the way.

From a coaching point of view it means we rely on every player to play their part and for every line to fulfil their role. In a short two-game tournament you can ride your top two lines if you want, this year we can’t. 

During the tournament you’ll face Israel, Turkey, Mexico, Iceland and Bulgaria. At the under-20 and senior levels, these are the countries that NZ will often face. In your experience has their style of play changed much through the years?

Turkey have really evolved over the last 3-4 years as they have had a consistent federation head coach. The other teams have for the most part continued their same styles.

Aside from winning the gold medal and advancing NZ to the next IIHF division, what is the ultimate goal for an age-group team like the Under-18s?

Our core goal is to win gold you’re right, but bigger than that is we are preparing these guys for higher honours. Nothing beats seeing players climb the age groups and then ultimately playing for the Ice Blacks. 

Before heading overseas has the team been able to get together for training camps over the summer months? And what takeaways or learnings did you come away with afterwards?

We had a mini camp in Dunedin late February – this gave us a good chance to bring the guys together, start work on combinations and also our systems. The uptake was great and I know everyone is looking forward to flying out.

How would you describe the current talent pool available in this age group for New Zealand?

Second to none. I’ve been coaching NZ teams for eight years now and collectively this is the most talented age group I’ve ever worked with. Don’t get me wrong, we have had great youth players in the past, but this team is exciting and I’m really looking forward to taking them to the world stage. 

Traveling and playing in these tournaments isn’t cheap, did your final team selection have to change much due to those factors?

Every other year I say yes to this question, but this year we have been able to secure great flights and a great training venue in Romania.

Nick Flight (Team Manager) and Csaba Kercso-Magos Snr (Assistant Coach) have been great – Nick locked our flights in and we are actually travelling to a hometown of Csaba’s so he has been able to twist a few arms for great deals. 

Finley Forbes returns for another year in the crease, would you consider him your number one starter for the tournament and how would you rate his development over the past twelve months?

Finley is a great goalie and a kid who has heaps of potential. He has lots of hockey ahead of him, we are really lucky to have two quality goalies in Finley and Rhett Wilson.

Rhett has a lot to prove with a year out of the game, so I’m looking forward to these two friends battling for the top spot. It’s great to have confidence in both guys though. 

Outside of the goal crease, who are some standout players in the 2019 squad?

From our few days in Dunedin, Alex Regan, who is captaining the team this year, is looking solid on the back-end and also scary good on the rush. Josh Hurley is looking sharp along with the Auckland line of Christian Regan, Lachlan Butler and Max Vesper who definitely know how to find the net. 

Where will the U18s training camp be held prior to the tournament and what do you think are the key things that need to be worked on to achieve a podium result?

We are training in Gheorgheni, Romania for 7-8 days, it’s about a 3-4 hour bus trip from Bucharest.

To succeed it’s a case of coming together as a team, buying into our systems, repeating as many times as possible and talking about all the variables. Last but not least, FUN. If we keep it fun and enjoyable everyone will work harder.

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New Zealand U18 Game Schedule

March 26: NZ v Israel at 3:30am
March 27: NZ v Turkey at 3:30am
March 29: NZ v Mexico at 12am
March 30: NZ v Iceland at 12am
April 1: NZ v Bulgaria at 2:30am

Depending on the availability of live streams, Puck Yeah will have game highlights available on our YouTube channel.

Photos: Matt Bennell

PUCK YEAH 51: Southern Storming with Kellye Nelson & Angelique Mawson

The NZWIHL has wrapped up the 2019 season with the Southern Storm claiming the championship, ending both the Auckland Steel’s dominance and their own losing streak.

A highlight of their bounce back campaign has been the play of Minnesota native Kellye Nelson, who ran away with the league scoring race tallying 35 points in 12 games (25 goals, 10 assists). She joins the podcast this week to talk about the Storm, life in Queenstown, and how she came to be in a VISA commercial with Team USA star Hilary Knight.

Along with Kellye, we wrap up this week’s episode with Storm head coach Angelique Mawson, who also coaches the New Zealand Women’s Under-18 team that will be competing at the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia next month.

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PUCK YEAH 50: Strength and Conditioning with Chris Eaden

It’s our 50th episode! And to celebrate we’re talking fitness with the man behind the successful Eaden Project gym, Chris Eaden.

Chris is a big impact player in New Zealand ice hockey. Whether it be his strength and conditioning role with the NZIHF to prepare national teams for competition, being the Canterbury Red Devils captain, or the fact that he’s the all-time leading scorer in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League with 203 goals in 168 games.

Away from the rink he’s making a difference in Christchurch by introducing Cantabrians to a healthy lifestyle.

This week he joins the podcast to chat about how training for hockey has evolved as the game gets faster, getting the Ice Blacks fit for IIHF Worlds, and the struggles of being on a rebuilding team after years of success.

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Main photo: Josh Fraser

PUCK YEAH 49: Meet The Foxes

We’re celebrating all things love on this week’s edition of the podcast!

January saw New Zealand Inline Ferns captain Tara Tissink marry the love of her life, Courtney Fox – whom just happens to be the Ferns team manager.

Together the newlywed Foxes join the podcast to talk about their big day and how preparations are shaping up for the Inline Ferns ahead of the 2019 World Roller Games in Barcelona.

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Photos: Nicola Blackwell

PUCK YEAH 48: Rick Parry enters The Hive

Puck Yeah Podcast is back in full force for 2019! And we’re starting off with some big news out of the NZIHL.

After spending the past five seasons with the West Auckland Admirals, culminating in lifting the Birgel Cup for the first time last year, goalie Rick Parry is moving across town to join the Botany Swarm.

It’s a busy time for the veteran netminder of 158 NZIHL games and 49 tests for the New Zealand Ice Blacks, recently he launched the Rick Parry Goalie Academy to help train the next generation of talent coming through.

Parry speaks with Puck Yeah’s Logan Swinkels to give an insight into why he’s making the big move for the 2019 season.

Please help support Puck Yeah with its extensive coverage of the 2019 New Zealand Ice Blacks by checking out our Givealittle page and donating today.

Main photo: Mike Froger

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Photo: James Allan

 

In The Crease: Csaba Kercso-Magos

Csaba Kercso-Magos may have what some Kiwis consider a hard to pronounce name, but the Hungarian-born goaltender has definitely made a name for himself in the NZIHL – being awarded top goalie honours in 2017 before helping the West Auckland Admirals secure their first Birgel Cup victory in 2018.

Kercso-Magos was recently named into the 2019 New Zealand Ice Blacks squad that will play in Mexico City for the IIHF Worlds, creating a formidable tandem in net with fellow Admirals goalie Rick Parry.

He joins goalie/scientist Joel ‘Dr J’ Rindelaub for the third instalment of ‘In The Crease’.

Please help support Puck Yeah with its extensive coverage of the 2019 New Zealand Ice Blacks by checking out our Givealittle page and donating today.

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Photo: James Allan

In The Crease: Andrew Hay

Botany Swarm captain Andrew Hay has been a mainstay of the NZIHL from the very beginning, back when they were still known as the South Auckland Swarm.

He’s been rocking the ‘C’ on his chest since the 2007 season, leading the team to four championship seasons in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. This year he will likely hit the illustrious 200 game mark to cap off an incredible career in New Zealand.

But none of that compares to being stuck ‘In The Crease’ with goalie/scientist Joel ‘Dr J’ Rindelaub, where he asks the captain all the hard questions he can within 3 minutes.

Please help support Puck Yeah with its extensive coverage of the 2019 New Zealand Ice Blacks by checking out our Givealittle page and donating today.

 

22 Thoughts on the 2019 Ice Blacks

April will see the New Zealand Ice Blacks traveling to Mexico City for their annual IIHF campaign with a singular objective: to finish first and earn promotion.

With two months to go, it’s down to the business end of preparations, culminating in an extensive ten-day training camp held in Vail, Colorado.

Puck Yeah will be right there with them, filming their progress for a documentary to be released later this year while also reporting back regularly so fans can stay connected with the Ice Blacks on the other side of the world. Such coverage is costly for us so please consider donating to our Givealittle page.

On Sunday night New Zealand’s 22-strong traveling squad for the 2019 IIHF Division II-Group B World Championship was announced as follows:

Forwards:
Paris Heyd, Matt Schneider, Jordan Challis, Alex Polosov, Dale Harrop, Benjamin Gavoille, Frazer Ellis, Ryan Strayer, Joseph Orr, Nick Henderson, Andrew Cox, Martin Lee, Chris Eaden, Robin Vortanov (non-traveling reserve).

Defence:
Stefan Amston, Callum Burns, Nick Craig, Blake Jackson, Andrew Hay, Jaxson Lane, Stephen Mawson, Logan Fraser (non-traveling reserve).

Goalies:
Rick Parry, Csaba Kercso-Magos, Vince Mitalas (non-traveling reserve).

Andy Mills, the President of the New Zealand Ice Hockey Federation, has previously mentioned to me that he believes New Zealand sides should be playing in higher divisions than they currently do and I would for the most part agree with him on that statement – the Ice Blacks certainly should be.

After back-to-back silver medal placings at the IIHF Worlds, this year they must capitalise on their recent success against Australia and get back to the IIHF’s Division II-Group A tournament.

Out of the five New Zealand Ice Hockey League clubs, the current Birgel Cup champion West Auckland Admirals boast the most Ice Blacks with seven this year, the Botany Swarm and Skycity Stampede both provide four, while the Dunedin Thunder and Canterbury Red Devils feature three and two respectively.

If all those that were named today remain healthy, this 2019 squad will be one of the strongest sides to wear the black jersey in recent history. And that’s despite some notable omissions like goaltender Daniel Lee who was unavailable due to study commitments.

Anatoly Khorozov returns as head coach to see through his ‘two-year mission’ to make IIHF promotion a reality. However, Adam Blanchette won’t be returning to the bench beside him for this year’s campaign. Instead he will be joined by Andreas Kaisser, last seen coaching the Ice Fernz in 2018 and now the current General Manager of the NZIHL.

Here are my 22 thoughts (shout out to Elliotte Friedman) on the 2019 New Zealand Ice Blacks, starting with…

FORWARDS

Paris Heyd (Dunedin Thunder)
NZIHL commentator Matt Wiffen said it best, dubbing Paris Heyd “Captain Fantastic” after the skilled centre scored one of many highlight reels goals last season. And while he’s not the captain of this side, the Dunedin Thunder’s main man often leads by example with his on-ice performance.

Awarded the title of the NZIHL’s 2018 MVP after almost taking the Thunder to the Birgel Cup Finals, his addition to the Ice Blacks is a no-brainer. My favourite element of Paris’ game is how strong he is on his edges – when he’s controlling possession, defenders have a tough time forcing a turnover. More often than not he’s creating a high percentage scoring chance instead.

2018 Stats: 17 games, 15 goals, 21 assists, +6, 10 PIMs, 18.75 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Matt Schneider (Skycity Stampede)
Backing up the selection of Heyd with more offensive power is Stampede captain Matt Schneider. Hailing from Vernon, BC and once drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, this 6-foot-7 (but feels more like 7 foot on skates) behemoth can dominant a game early with equal parts size and skill.

We have seen Schneider do exactly that countless times since his NZIHL debut in 2012. Last season he was the top scorer with 46 points in 18 games and was crowned league MVP the season before that.

Possessing a wicked shot that goes in more often than not, Schneider is a fierce competitor that hates to lose. He will be a key part of the Ice Blacks’ offence – good luck to any goalie trying to see past his screen.

2018: 18 games, 22 goals, 24 assists, +29, 22 PIMs, 55.00 S%

Jordan Challis (Botany Swarm)
With 157 games over 12 years, Jordan Challis’ game is on roll after coming off his best season offensively. With 24 points in 15 games he led the up-and-down Swarm in scoring, followed up by an impressive outing for New Zealand against Trans-Tasman rivals Australia at the 2018 Winter Games.

Turning 27 shortly before training camp, Challis still has a lot to offer the Ice Blacks.

When interviewing the 43-cap veteran after their test series win over the Mighty Roos back in September, it was clear just how much achieving IIHF promotion would mean to him – Challis embodies the belief that New Zealand should be at a higher level and competing against Australia more.

Challis also has dad strength now, so there’s that.

2018: 15 games, 9 goals, 15 assists, even +/-, 20 PIMs, 34.62 S%

Alex Polosov (Swarm)
Once an age-grade representative for Estonia in 2004-05, Alex Polosov now calls New Zealand home and returns to the Ice Blacks fray for a third consecutive international season after a strong performance in the black jersey last year – scoring 9 points in 5 games.

The 5-foot-9 forward provides solid offensive depth for this 2019 lineup. If one of the main cannons fails to fire, Polosov still remains a threat with his ability to finish plays effectively during 2-on-1 breakouts. Here’s hoping he can continue the excellent chemistry with Ryan Strayer as seen at the 2018 Winter Games.

2018: 16 games, 6 goals, 6 assists, -3, 14 PIMs, 31.58 S%

Dale Harrop (West Auckland Admirals)
The Christchurch native had one hell of a 2018 season – NZIHL champion, Trans-Tasman Challenge winner, and two-time participant of the ‘Kurt Baker Challenge.’

The Admirals enjoyed plenty of goal-scoring up and down the lineup on their way to their first Birgel Cup victory, with Harrop being one of those consistent performers – tallying 20 points in 16 games.

Harrop is the type of character that every locker room needs. He knows how to keep things light, but also when to switch into beast mode and score crucial goals while staying out of the penalty box.

2018: 16 games, 5 goals, 15 assists, +9, 10 PIMs, 45.45 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Benjamin Gavoille (Thunder)
After making his New Zealand debut during the Winter Games series, Mexico City will be Benjamin Gavoille’s first IIHF experience for the Ice Blacks.

The French-born forward was instrumental in seeing the Dunedin Thunder come so close to securing a Birgel Cup Finals berth for the first time since 2014, finishing third in team scoring behind Heyd and Brandon Egli (27) with 20 points.

Gavoille’s attitude coming into the team really impressed me. While NZ might be his second home, he appreciates how meaningful the black jersey is for the country’s elite athletes – he has well and truly earned his spot with his initial performance in that same jersey.

2018: 17 games, 13 goals, 7 assists, +8, 10 PIMs, 27.66 S%

Frazer Ellis (Admirals)
Named 2018 MVP of a championship-winning team, at only age 22 Frazer Ellis’ two-way game is growing from strength to strength – he contributes regularly on the score sheet and denies opportunities for his opponents at the other end.

During last year’s IIHF Worlds in Spain, Ellis was burying the puck at a goal per game pace for New Zealand. The 2019 campaign has the potential to be a breakout year for the young forward with plenty of support from his fellow Admirals on hand.

2018: 18 games, 11 goals, 14 assists, +16, 37 PIMs, 52.38 S%

Ryan Strayer (Stampede)
The introduction of Ryan Strayer to the Ice Blacks lineup for the Winter Games felt like a breath of fresh air – and his style of play is one we’re fond of here at Puck Yeah.

His infectious energy both on and off the ice is not to be underestimated – if the debutant wasn’t contributing offensively, which he was, he can find other ways to have an impact on the outcome. Going to the corners, disrupting rushes and creating turnovers, it’s all part of Strayer’s game and he too, along with Gavoille, rightfully deserves a place in the 2019 roster.

2018: 18 games, 5 goals, 14 assists, +8, 12 PIMs, 22.73 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Joseph Orr (Thunder)
Currently playing US collegiate hockey for Williston State College, Joe Orr is backing up his seventh and best season for the Dunedin Thunder with two goals and eight assists in 13 games of ACHA competition.

While the flying winger was part of New Zealand’s Winter Games roster last year, the Mexico City tournament will be Orr’s first IIHF senior competition. Previous he represented the country at under-20 and under-18 competitions.

He is the second youngest member of the team, behind Callum Burns, but his play on the ice will likely suggest otherwise with his strong puck-handling skills – I won’t be surprised if Orr produces at least one highlight reel worthy goal during April’s tournament.

2018: 17 games, 9 goals, 8 assists, -3, 12 PIMs, 20.00 S%

Nick Henderson (Admirals)
Admirals fan favourite and the man affectionately known as ‘Hendo’ is going into his seventh consecutive year with the Ice Blacks, making up part of the side’s veteran group.

Once considered more of a defenceman, Henderson has transitioned well to the wing, his now preferred position. He can score goals but I would consider him more of a playmaker that will help anchor New Zealand’s second or third line.

2018: 18 games, 7 goals, 14 assists, +11, 22 PIMs, 35 S%

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Andrew Cox (Perth Thunder, AIHL)
I will admit that Cox is a player that I don’t get the chance to see play very often aside from when he’s with the Ice Blacks.

For the past seven years the Auckland-born winger has been applying his trade across the ditch in the AIHL for the Perth Thunder. While Cox enjoyed high-scoring years in 2014 and 2015, last season was his best yet with 31 points in 28 games. I look forward to seeing what he will bring to the table this year.

2018: 28 games, 12 goals, 19 assists, 18 PIMs

Martin Lee (Montreal)
Lee is another player I don’t get to see play much – the last time he stepped out on the ice for a NZIHL game was back in 2013 for the Canterbury Red Devils. Since then he has played at an elite level in Poland and Sweden, but Lee now resides in Montreal where he runs the ‘ML Hockey Development’ school.

Seven years removed from his last IIHF appearance for the Ice Blacks, the journeyman’s vast experience from playing around the world will help keep this team grounded.

Chris Eaden (Canterbury Red Devils)
The Ice Blacks are immediately stronger with this man in the lineup – Eaden is the NZIHL’s all-time leader in goals (203) and points (372). That’s a two points per game pace. But after a disappointing 2018 season that saw Canterbury finish last, the Red Devils captain will be looking to start the 2019 season on a more positive note.

Eaden takes his strength and conditioning more seriously than most, establishing ‘The Eaden Project’ where he helps his clients achieve their own fitness goals with the motto ‘Making normal people abnormally fit.’ With extensive knowledge in this area, Eaden brings more to the table than just his scoring prowess – and superior fitness will be important to edging out the competition if games go into overtime.

If you don’t believe me just check out @eadenproject on Instagram.

2018: 14 games, 8 goals, 12 assists, -18, 33 PIMs, 14.55 S%

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Photo: James Allan

DEFENCE

Stefan Amston (Stampede)
Originally from Sweden, the home of offensively gifted defencemen, I would consider Amston the biggest offensive weapon the Ice Blacks currently have on the blue line.

Last year’s tournament in Spain was Amston’s debut as a New Zealand citizen/representative, racking up 5 assists across his first 5 games. More points on the board this time around could result in seeing gold around his neck come April 27 – that just happens to be the day after my birthday, and all I want this year is to see this team finally achieve what they are capable of doing.

2018: 18 games, 6 goals, 7 assists, +21, 8 PIMs, 50.00 S%

Callum Burns (Stampede)
The youngest member of this year’s squad knows how to fly! Once a winger, Burns has quickly grown into his new defensive role for the Stampede and the Ice Blacks as well. But that doesn’t stop him from displaying his explosive speed – he’s a talented puck-carrying defender that loves to create scoring chances off the rush and it’s a pleasure to watch it happen from the stands.

A pairing of Amston and Burns could be lethal for the Ice Blacks’ special teams.

2018: 15 games, 2 goals, 10 assists, +9, 12 PIMs, 50.00 S%

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Photo: James Allan

Nick Craig (Admirals)
After suffering an injury early last season that saw the Ice Blacks captain sitting on the bench and chomping at the bit for the Winter Games plus the Admirals’ Birgel Cup run, Nick Craig is back and ready to lead the Ice Blacks to a first-place finish – he won’t be satisfied with another silver medal.

He will feel at home with so many of his Admirals teammates joining him for this journey. I know I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see what results a hungry Craig is capable of producing.

2018: 5 games, +5, 2 PIMs

Blake Jackson (Admirals)
Considering Jackson only registered 3 shots on goal for the entire 2018 NZIHL season, one of which went in, his focus is more on keeping the opposition at bay and clearing any rebound opportunities away from his netminder. But perhaps he should shoot more? There must be some lucky powers behind that moustache.

The Admirals defender was part of the 2012 Ice Blacks team that last played at the Division 2A level…I think you know where I’m going with this. Division 2B silver medals just don’t cut it anymore.

2018: 18 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, +3, 31 PIMs, 33.33 S%

Andrew Hay (Swarm)
As one of three Hay brothers to represent New Zealand in the past 12 months, Andrew knows what it means to wear the black jersey with pride, and he does so by providing a solid stay-at-home presence on the blue line.

As with Blake Jackson, Andrew was on the last Ice Blacks team to compete in the IIHF division above where they are currently placed. No doubt he would like to help guide New Zealand back there before he ever considers the notion of hanging up the skates – which is crazy. Surely it must be NZ law by now that at least one member of the Hay family is an Ice Black at all times.

2018: 15 games, 1 goal, -3, 29 PIMs, 12.50 SG%

Jaxson Lane (Red Devils)
While the Canterbury Red Devils were well represented in this year’s New Zealand Under-20s team, Lane is one of only two in the Ice Blacks – the other being stalwart Chris Eaden. This will be his first IIHF experience at the senior level, but the defender has previously worn the black jersey for the Under-18s and Under-20s back in 2011-12.

With Lane’s Red Devils coach Khorozov also running the bench at Mexico City and the experience of fellow d-men Craig, Jackson and Hay behind him, there is plenty of support, making this tournament a great opportunity for Lane to establish himself.

2018: 16 games, 2 goals, 6 assists, -20, 16 PIMS, 15.38 SG%

Stephen Mawson (Swarm)
Mawson’s inclusion to the squad is a testament to how hard he works to be successful. Having only picked up ice hockey a few years ago, he was more accustomed to the hard floors of inline hockey, but has since quickly become a key member of the Botany Swarm’s defensive core in just three seasons.

Playing forward during the latest summer edition of the Backyard Hockey League in Auckland, Mawson finished third in league scoring behind Botany Swarm/Iceholes teammate Ritchie Hopkinson and Kyle Kaliniak with 28 points in 15 games.

The Ice Blacks rookie has seen plenty of ice time and on a good team he can definitely produce. Bring the flow, bring the noise.

2018: 14 games, 2 goals, 3 assists, -11, 20 PIMs, 16.67 SG%

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Photo: Mike Froger

GOALIES

Rick Parry (Admirals)
As far as hockey careers go for New Zealand-born goalies, Parry is the gold standard to follow for the country’s younger goaltenders that are starting to come through the ranks. To help facilitate their growth he recently created the ‘Rick Parry Goalie Academy’ with his first camp coming up next month.

Sharing starts with Csaba Kercso-Magos, the veteran of 129 NZIHL games finished third amongst the league-leading goalies for 2018.

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Parry both as a person and a hockey player, his interview on the Puck Yeah podcast remains one of my favourites to date. I have full confidence that this Admirals goalie tandem can also deliver the goods just as they did in the NZIHL last year.

2018: 6-2 record, .913 SV%, 3.25 GAA

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Photo: Jay French

Csaba Kercso-Magos (Admirals)
After a highly successful year that saw the Hungarian-born goalie put up his best numbers since making his NZIHL debut in 2011, now’s the time for Kercso-Magos to make a run at the starting job for the Ice Blacks.

Last season proved that he is capable of stepping up for those big game moments as seen with three strong starts for the Admirals during the NZIHL playoffs – allowing 2.33 goals per game in a fierce battle with the Dunedin Thunder and the Skycity Stampede for top honours. Considering the high goal totals often seen in the league, those numbers were more than enough to keep his team in contention.

I’ve been impressed with Kercso-Magos’ ability to calm down and simply focus on making the next save. At 25 he’s hitting his prime and will provide a few good years in the crease for the Ice Blacks, especially with the Stampede’s Daniel Lee also pushing for starts when he’s available.

2018: 9-1 record, .931 SV%, 2.77 GAA

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In The Crease: Justin Daigle

After five years in the NZIHL, is West Auckland Admirals captain Justin Daigle more Kiwi than Canadian? Find out in our new interview series ‘In The Crease’ with goalie/scientist Joel ‘Dr J’ Rindelaub.

Please help support Puck Yeah with its extensive coverage of the 2019 New Zealand Ice Blacks by checking out our Givealittle page and donating today.

Main photo: Mike Froger