|Ice Unveil New Names in 2014 Squad
The Melbourne Ice have announced a relatively new look squad as they look to regain the Goodall Cup.
After being knocked out in the semi-finals last season by eventual premiers, the Sydney Ice Dogs, breaking a three-year dominance over the competition, the Ice has retained its core group with several young players joining the squad.
The biggest surprise was the missing name of Dahlen Phillips, the Ice’s perennial back up goalie to Stu Denman who finally had his chance at the top job last season, returning a 3.56 goals against average and 85.3% save percentage from 20 starts.
Melbourne Ice president Emma Poynton confirmed the move, saying that he has chosen to travel and “see where he is at with his hockey come 2015”.
While the 26-year old will leave a big hole, the goaltending stocks have been bolstered by the announcement of former English National League goaltender Rick Ashton.
29 year-old Ashton is a veteran from the ENL (the third tier competition in Great Britain), having played with the Billingham Bombers and Flintshire Freeze as well as a season in the English Premier Ice Hockey League for the Solihull Kings.
“Rick was what I refer to as 'a stumble find',” Poynton said. “Rick has been in Melbourne for some time. He has been playing IHV hockey with the local Jets club and approached MI to ask to try out and be considered for the MI roster. Not too dissimilar to how Pine-Murphy found MI last year by walking into the Icehouse and asking if he could try out. Rick came out to skate a few sessions, was assessed by the MI assistant/goalie coach Johan Steenberg and was subsequently named on the MI 2014 roster.”
Joining the Ice coaching staff is Glen Mayer, who ended his 8-year, 143-game AIHL career to become an assistant coach.
Mayer will join Steenberg and newly minted Ice coach Brent Laver, who replaces club stalwart Sandy Gardner.
The other surprise was the announcement that Sean Hamilton was going to be dressing up in Ice colours this season, following his debut season in the AIHL for Perth Thunder in 2013 where he scored six points (five goals, one assist) in 12 games.
The Melbourne Ice were thrilled to have retained the services of last year’s captain Jason Baclig and star forward Matt Armstrong according to Poynton.
Both players will have their fifth seasons at the club.
They will be joined by former Ice and Mustangs player Scott Corbett, who has 50 AIHL points in 36 games, and Swedish right winger Tim Johansson.
Johansson has played four seasons in the top level of Swedish hockey, compiling 29 points in 121 games, offering both youth and experience.
Poynton said of Johansson, “he is a tall, fast (very fast) forward who will bring some Swedish flair”.
Showing the depth of talent the club has coming through, there are two new youngsters who are hoping to make their mark for the club in Sonny Bal and Sam Hodic.
Bal has played junior hockey in Canada, while Hodic is a former under 18’s player for Australia and currently playing in the AJIHL alongside several other Ice players, such as Austin McKenzie, Chris Wong, Paul Lazzarotto, Mitch Humphries, Jack Carpenter and Daniel Szalinski, showing the young talent the club is developing.
With players such as Andrew Crowther, Andrew Erzen, Caleb Butler and Dylan Moore not featuring in the squad this season, Poynton said it showed the strength in the Ice system.
“It is a healthy problem for our coaching staff to have when they are stressed about who to cut during the selection process,” Poynton said. “We were lucky to have such quality in the players trying out. It shows that local players choose Melbourne Ice as a club of choice when trying out for the AIHL. Our previous success and club structure helps sell that decision and our professional set up helps the players make that decision also.”
“The youth, or what I refer to as the MI Next Generation, will bring a new fresh energy. The younger guys keep the older players on their toes. The younger players remind the older players they are the next generation of developing players. These new younger players will soon be fighting for the first line spots and carry MI into the future.”
While these players may not see as much ice time this season as the seasoned veterans, Poynton hopes it will offer them an experience and training to get them up to AIHL level, so that they will be ready when their time comes.
What the new look team does show is that the Melbourne Ice academy has bore fruit and Poynton said it would be pivotal for the club moving forward.
“MI is extremely conscious about developing the local junior hockey players and this is seen via our MI Academy program,” Poynton said. “We invest in offering a junior development program in the hopes we can provide a training program that will allow potential future MI players to develop their skills. The MI Academy is run in-house at Icehouse by MI players and coaching staff which allows for a consistency of culture and training patterns right through from the junior academy to the senior MI squad.”
Captaincy and alternate captains will be announced on the Ice’s jersey presentation night to be held 6pm on Tuesday April 1st at the Harbour Town Hotel, Docklands.
The 2014 Melbourne Ice squad is:
Jason Baclig (I)
Scott Corbett (I)
Tim Johansson (I)