Tuesday, December 9, 2014 - Submitted by Jeremy Rochow & Tina Girdler
Childhood friends from Australian club and representative hockey days, Sydney-siders Cameron Todd and Tyler Kubara have played on opposite sides of the puck in the AIHL in recent years. The opportunity for more ice time separated them in the AIHL with Todd joining the Bears while Kubara competed to crack a competitive Ice Dogs roster. When Sydney Bears import Dane Ludolph recommended the San Diego Gulls to Todd and told him about opportunities available in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), he was quick to give Kubara the call over as well.
“Dane [Ludolph] played for the San Diego Gulls when he was younger and suggested it to me; put me in contact with the coach,” Todd, who was named the Gulls’ captain in his first season in the team, said. “My goal is to play college hockey and the WSHL is a good route to go as a stepping stone.”
Both players are part of the new generation of Australian players gaining experience locally but keen to grow their skill, speed and knowledge overseas.
“Australia's level of hockey is greatly increasing especially in the AIHL but there still needs to be improvement in the younger age groups,” Todd said. “I don't think it is completely necessary [to go overseas] but it sure does go along way to helping achieve your goal.”
The WSHL is a tier three junior A ice hockey league with all players under 21. The San Diego Gulls also have an interesting team dynamic, drawing players from eight different nations including Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Germany.
San Diego head coach Craig Carlyle is pleased by the pair’s work ethic, highlighting Todd’s leadership capabilities and the manner in which he goes about his hockey.
“Cam came in and took control; he had the most experience as far as playing internationally and being a big strong guy, and he’s one of the oldest guys in the team,” Carlyle said. “I waited a while before I made a decision, but off-ice, the guy works to the point where he almost passes out every time.”
“He’s a great lead-by-example guy and he’s been there and done some things that kids at this level haven’t done, so it was an easy choice really.”
20-year old Todd has plenty of experience, debuting for the Sydney Bears and winning the AIHL Rookie of the year in 2013. He quickly found his way into the elite level of players, being selected for the Australian senior mens team, currently having 10 games under his belt for Australia with four goals and five assists. Currently Todd is third on the Gulls scoring list with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) from 21 games.
Todd said he wasn’t expecting to be given the Gulls captaincy when he arrived in San Diego. However, he eagerly took the role, saying it was a special moment in his hockey career to date.
“It was pretty special actually—I wasn’t expecting too much, coming from a different country compared to everyone else,” Todd said. “I was really stoked to have it, and it’s been really good.”
“Over here it’s a lot faster paced and a lot more physical, and it’s a lot more cut throat. If you’re not playing well you could be traded, you could be dropped the next day—it’s not like that back home.”
Kubara on the other hand has battled his way into the Sydney Ice Dogs squad over the past few seasons. Tallying 50 AIHL games, Kubara has been developing strongly, having been part of the Ice Dogs Goodall Cup triumph in 2013. With nine games under his belt, Kubara has two assists for the Gulls, working his way back into hockey after post-AIHL season surgery. Coach Carlyle said Kubara has been progressing well.
“Tyler has only been here about a month, and he had surgery right before he came, but he has been progressing well,” Carlyle said. “He’s been better every game, so I’m still waiting to see what he has at one hundred per cent.”
Kubara admitted his first few games weren’t as good as he would have hoped as he felt he was not fit enough yet and struggled a little with the pace compared to the AIHL.
“I’ve been here for three weeks and getting over I wasn’t as fit as I should be, and a lot of the guys I’m up against are a lot fitter and faster as well,” Kubara said. “Another thing I’m struggling with is the amount of time you have with the puck compared to in Australia.”
Along with living away from home, adapting to the rink size and style of the game in North America is another hurdle to overcome.
“The quality of the league is really good and every team is so close,” Kubara said. “Although there are some more skilled players in the AIHL the style of game here is faster and more of a North American-style game.”
With both players moving towards veteran status in the AIHL with an uncapped age range, Carlyle mentioned that the two Aussies are more developed than most kids their age, mostly due to playing against fully-developed men.
“They’re big guys and their new raw talent,” Carlyle said. “I don’t know if they’re being challenged out there, but they’re bigger and stronger than most kids their age.”
Todd and Kubara are both aiming to make college teams next year, with Kubara adding that he would like to make the senior Australian team in the near future. Carlyle said Todd has a good chance of making a college team next year, while Kubara has been progressing well since he arrived less than a month ago.
“I think as far as Cam goes, he could play division one NCAA hockey out here, and from there anything could happen, although he’s kind of had a late start being from Australia,” Carlyle said. “He’s [Kubara] a very smart, coachable player—he needs to work a little bit on his skating, but you can never be too good of a skater.”
Carlyle praised the effort and perseverance of Kubara and said he was always working hard to improve.
“He’s heading in the right direction; he’s such a great kid and you can’t help but like the kid,” he said. “He goes at one hundred per cent whether you get 10 shifts out of him or 20.”
With Todd and Kubara making a strong go of it in the States and becoming more and more accustomed to the challenges of playing hockey overseas, the sky could be the limit should they make college teams. Regardless, both young Australians should make both their families and the entire Australian ice hockey community proud of the performances they have produced so far.
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