Monday, January 26, 2015 - Submitted by Tina Girdler
With three potential outcomes for third place, the Australian men's national U20 ice hockey team defeated Iceland by a score of 5-1 to medal for the first time in Division II Group B to claim the bronze over rivals Belgium and Serbia. This was a monumental victory for Team Australia with their last medal was gold four years prior in 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey in Division III.
Australian coach Markus Frankenberger mentally and physically prepared his team to believe that with preparation and hard work, they could beat anyone on any given day.
“The experience we gained this year was that with all the hard yards and good preparation prior to worlds, anything is possible,” Frankenberger said. “It's good to see that we can compete at this level. We have been in a medal race for the last two years so its positive to finally gain a medal this year.”
Australia went 2-0-1-2 in the tournament with their disciplined play shown through division leading statistics in scoring efficiency (15.15%) and special teams going five from 23 on the power play (21.74%) and second in killing penalties to Croatia allowing four from 30 for (86.67%).
Frankenberger saw special teams as critical to be competitive with how dangerous European teams can be on the power play; describing them as a significant factor in winning games for the energy they bring to the team when successful. With separate power play and penalty killing units, Frankenberger was able to utilize players to always ensure fresh legs were always on the ice.
“It is important to understand that our success came due to the goaltender being the best penalty-killer on the ice and players sacrificing their bodies by taking the hit to make the play or blocking shots at all times,” Frankenberger said. “Yucca Reinecke never missed an opportunity to block a shot while Jordan Williams is probably the best penalty killing machine within his age group at the moment.”
“As a coach it’s so impressive to see these individuals plus others do everything for the benefit of the team,” Frankenberger continued. “The power play was a struggle at the start of the tournament but was in full swing towards the end. The trio of Kubara, Pataky and Fedor were instrumental in power play success; their puck movement was excellent and their consistency only improved over the duration of the tournament.”
Despite their high scoring proficiency, Australia had the fewest shots on goal by far allowing an average of 20 more per game compared to their opposition. In the third game in a 4-2 win over Serbia, the Australians were outshot 67-17. To counteract this Frankenberger gave the team one goal: outwork the opponent all over the ice and compete for the puck.
“We tried to keep the opponents to the outside and let them take low percentage shots from the perimeter,” Frankenberger said. “We knew that we wouldn’t have too many opportunities to score during any given game. We felt that if we can get at least 3 goals for, we can or come close beating anyone in the tournament, due to amazing goal-tending and talented scorers on the team.”
With possession frequently in their opponent’s hands, Australian netminder Charlie Smart was recognized for his outstanding play being awarded best goalkeeper by the IIHF and best player for team Australia selected by coaches.
“His movement on the ice looked effortless; he looked comfortable, relaxed and in total control,” Frankenberger said. “Charlie's presence on the ice, his energy and calm personality transferred throughout the whole team. Charlie’s lateral movement and coverage of the net was stellar and this frustrated opponents greatly and gave opposition teams very little goal scoring opportunity.”
In his second chance representing Australia on the international stage after previously representing the U18 teams, the 18-year-old Smart came back older and wiser with the experience showing in the accolades won for his play in goal. Saving 153 of 159 shots on goal, Smart had a remarkable SVS% .9623 with GAA 1.99.
“After spending three seasons overseas, to finally play for Australia again felt amazing, and to face as many shots as I did per game just made it that much better,” Smart said. “For me, I think the biggest difference was my confidence and my ability to keep a level head throughout a game and the entire tournament.”
Looking towards the future, Charlie Smart hopes to see the experience gained from the tournament as a stepping-stone to furthering his prospects of playing hockey at higher levels including at home in the AIHL.
“The tournament has definitely made me more consistent in net and I hope to be playing in Europe or in college in the next couple of years,” Smart said. “I’d love to be able to play at home in the AIHL between seasons but it's been hard to play with import goalies filling up the spots.”
With AIHL teams beginning preparation for the 2015 season, expect to see players from the Australian U20 men’s national team making the jump to the league as teams taking advantage of the strong young talent making their presence known on the ice.
November 17, 2014 The Great Gordie Howe
As Gordie Howe's condition has worsened, Keith remembers his experienc...
September 20, 2014 Bleedorange - A Celebration of 2014 | MOAT: Melbourne Mustangs
A look back at the 2014 championship season for the MOAT: Melbourne Mu...