|Adrenaline squad to push for 2014 playoff rebirth
Adelaide have assembled a strong squad for the AIHL season as they look to bounce back after missing the playoffs in 2013 for the first time since the Adrenaline formed in 2009.
With the standard of the AIHL rising, the Adrenaline have retained the core of their roster while adding a number of returning stars and exciting import prospects for 2014 and look set to figure in the race for a playoff spot.
The Mighty Roos
Adelaide's delayed start to the season comes as a blessing for the Adrenaline, with a number of key players available after representing Australia at the World Championships in Serbia.
Captain Greg Oddy, defender Joshua Harding and forward Darren Corstens joined coach Ryan O'Handley in the Australian set up, and will again be central to the success of Adelaide this campaign.
Add Wehebe Darge, who was unavailable for national selection due to club commitments, to that list and it is an imposing core.
Oddy, the all-time AIHL leader in goals and games, showed no signs of slowing down with a team-high 37 points last season and will lead from the front again.
“We are very lucky to have the three veterans back to start the season,” team manager Ross Noga said. “You cannot put a value on the importance of those three players. Greg being the team captain is the most influential player on and off the ice, while Josh is a proven leader and Darren has great speed and aggressiveness.”
However it is Darge who looms as the X-factor.
“Wehebe is coming off a stellar season in the FHL and his experience and skills will be a huge plus for the us this year,” Noga added.
The 22-year-old tallied a career-high 19 goals in 2013 to lead the scoring at the Adrenaline. He finished behind Oddy with 36 points and has made his mark on the Federal Hockey League in the AIHL off-season, helping the Dayton Demonz reach the playoffs. The forward has 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) in 51 games.
Adelaide has secured the return of two former players, one local and one import, for the upcoming season. Canadian Brett Liscomb returns to the Adrenaline after plying his trade in Adelaide during the 2012 season. The 28-year-old forward scored 43 points (13 goals, 30 assists) in his first stint in Australia and will a welcome sight in Adrenaline colours.
“He (Brett) is so pumped to be back in Adelaide and will be a very important player this year,” Noga said. “His previous experience playing in the AIHL is a huge asset.”
Former Adelaide forward Dean Peterson also returns for his first full season since 2011. Peterson, now 25-years-old, has almost 100 games of experience and adds depth to the Adrenaline offence.
“(Dean) will add scoring punch with his hard work and is also a specialist in the shootouts which we were not successful in last year.”
The Adrenaline have bolstered their roster with the signing five imports, including Liscomb. Adelaide have also added David Chubb (forward), Mans Lindgren (forward), Niko Suoraniemi (defender) and Mike Will (goaltender).
Canadian Chubb adds plenty of experience to the Adrenaline line-up, and has made a name for himself with his playmaking abilities. The 26-year-old most recently scored 12 points in 17 games with the Gander Flyers in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL).
Swede Mans Lindgren lacks experience but adds raw speed and excitement to Adelaide's offence. The 20-year-old has forged a strong career in junior hockey championships in Sweden, and has adjusted well to Adelaide.
“(Mans) has already gelled with his teammates,” Noga said. “When celebrating his 20th birthday recently he brought three birthday cakes to his own birthday - it must be a Swedish tradition.”
The import has also impressed on the ice, scoring four goals (including a hat-trick) in three games for Adelaide Blackhawks in the IHSA A-grade.
Finnish defenceman Niko Suoraniemi joins the Adrenaline with a sound history. The left-hander dressed in all 40 games for Herlev in Denmark's premier hockey league, the Metal Ligaen, accumulating 16 penalty minutes. He also has a strong history in the Netherlands with his five years and 196 games culminating in 108 points, as well as featuring in five games in Allsvenskan, the second highest Swedish league, with Rögle.
British goaltender Mike Will is set to join Adelaide after Great Britain's World Championship campaign in Lithuania.
Between the Pipes
Only the defunct Canberra Knights conceded more goals than the Adrenaline last season, and it is an obvious area requiring improvement in 2014. For the importance of solid goaltending look no further than the two grand finalists from last season. The Sydney Ice Dogs and Newcastle North Stars possessed the two best goalies in the league.
British import Mike Will is expected to be part of the solution for Adelaide.
“We are looking for big things from Mike to cement the number one spot and also help push Peter King and Andrew Glass to develop,” Noga said.
The 26-year-old went 5-5 with a 4.04 goals against average in 10 games for Braehead Clan in the Elite Ice Hockey League.
Last season Rick Parry started in goal on 16 occasions, Peter King 11 times and Russell Brewer made one start.
Will is set to arrive in Adelaide on May 9, leaving King and Andrew Glass to vie for the starting spot in the Adrenline’s opening four games.
The Adrenaline will also be hoping that Will can come up big in shootouts if required to. Adelaide was 3-5 when games were not decided in regulation last year.
The Next Wave of Talent
A 'kid line' seems to be the buzz theme in 2014 with several teams dedicating their third-line - and valuable minutes - to young Australian talent. The Adrenaline won't have a dedicated youth line, but several of Adelaide's young brigade have a chance to show their talent and look set to play a role at stages in 2014.
Kayne Fedor got his chance late last season and played nine games for the Adrenaline. Fedor looks set to figure for Adelaide again, coming off a strong off-season playing in the Ontario East Minor Hockey League for Ontario Hockey Academy Gold Mavericks.
“We are hoping Kayne has developed his skills whilst playing overseas, but he will have to continue to work hard to make his way into the line-up,” Noga said.
Adelaide also boast a strong development player corps with three players who are members of the Australian side which participated in the under-18 world championships in March.
Zachary Boyle, Remy McGuiness and Ted Fabijan all played in Bulgaria. They will be joined by 18-year-old Ryan Foll.
“It really is up to them to impress the coaches to earn a spot in the line-up, but they get the chance to train with the team all year,” Noga said.
What to expect in 2014
2013 was a year of missed opportunities for the Adrenaline. The teams’ situation was made harder by a challenging schedule that saw all back-to-back matches and the departure of imports Britt and Travis Ouellette mid-season.
Despite finishing sixth and winning just 11 games (three in a shootout), Adelaide recorded a victory over every side in the competition except Perth. It beat grand finalist Sydney Ice Dogs and Newcastle North Stars on the road, in addition to perennial powerhouse Melbourne Ice.
Their best is very good, and with the bolstering of their squad and reliable imports it bodes well for 2014. The Adrenaline will hope to maintain its usual scoring prowess, while tightening up on the defensive end with Will in goal.
Adelaide opens its campaign this weekend on the road, with a clash against Newcastle North Stars on Saturday before backing up against Sydney Bears on Sunday. The Adrenaline's home opener is against Perth Thunder on Saturday 3 May.
Adelaide will celebrate its past on the night of its home opener, with an Alumni night for all past Avalanche, A’s and Adrenaline players.
Former players are encouraged to attend the game and celebrations afterwards, and should email Team Manager Ross Noga at firstname.lastname@example.org if they wish to attend.
The 2014 Adelaide Adrenaline squad is:
Zach Boyle (development)
David Chubb (import)
Ted Fabijan (development)
Ryan Foll (development)
Joshua Harding (alternate captain)
David Huxley (alternate captain)
Mans Lindgren (import)
Brett Liscomb (import)
Remy McGuiness (development)
Greg Oddy (captain)
Niko Suoraniemi (import)
Mike Will (import)
* Picture by Injected Ideas/Peter Podlaha