|Adrenaline raring for season opener
No team has had a tougher pre-season than the Adelaide Adrenaline. Last year’s fifth place side was scheduled to start the season on opening day against the North Stars but an emergency with the large rink at Adelaide’s IceArena shut down in late February. With the announcement came a fight not just to get some pre-season preparation in but to be able to suit up in Adelaide at all this year.
Thankfully, people power prevailed and the Adelaide rink has undergone work to ensure a new ice surface is down in time for the AIHL season; though it is a slightly delayed start for the Adrenaline. Adelaide legend and rookie AIHL Head Coach Trevor Walsh is quite philosophical about the dramas the team has faced.
“We started our pre-season on the first of February and got off to a really great start,” Walsh, in his first season of AIHL coaching, said. “We had great buy-in from all local prospects and the vibe was the best it had been for years. The setback with our arena was really unfortunate, but we can either use it as an excuse or motivation.”
Motivation shouldn’t be hard to find with the core group of players having narrowly missed out on finals weekend last season. Key to motivation is having the leadership group in the locker-room buy into what the management is saying.
Walsh is confident his team has this.
“Leadership is the key to any successful organisation,” Walsh said. “We are very fortunate to have a very strong and experienced leadership group that I am very familiar with. That will go a long way in helping us get over this very challenging preseason.”
Given the delays in getting onto the ice, the Adrenaline has only recently begun announcing their playing roster for the year. Three names absent from that list are Australian international goaltender Charlie Smart and 2015 defenceman Andrew White - both of whom have suited up for the Sydney Ice Dogs this season – and Zach Boyle, the young defencemen who has performed strongly for the CBR Brave.
While he addresses them as losses to the overall talent pool, Walsh is confident his team can overcome any individual losses.
“Fortunately we have a very strong local talent pool here in Adelaide,” Walsh said. “This year’s focus will be on the development of players and a strategic game play; we want our players to be aware of their responsibilities in different game situations and have them be accountable. If we are successful with this, it will overcome any loss of personnel.”
Walsh is keen to point to an increased training group with local players given much more chance to progress in Adelaide; the club seemingly re-focusing on ensuring that the Australian core of the line-up is as strong as possible.
“We want our program to really develop this season,” Walsh said. “We have introduced a much larger training group this season in hopes of developing our local players and producing future AIHL players.”
Nicola Pau has recently been announced as a returning import, joined by Canadian Cole MacMillan and Michigan-born T.J. Battani, both of whom have strong college hockey backgrounds in their respective countries.
These players join up with a well-established core and several younger local talents are expected to break through this season, giving the Adrenaline a really strong mix of league veterans, hungry youngsters and skilful imports.
Trevor Walsh himself is in his first year as the team’s Head Coach, having taken over from Ryan O’Handley who stepped aside into a new role as President of the club.
“Ryan has been very busy in his new role, as you can imagine under this year’s circumstances,” Walsh said. “He has been doing a great job and the new board that has been assembled this year has done a great job supporting him, which has allowed our coaching staff and playing group to focus on preparing for the start of the season. It is a great working relationship.”
There is no doubt that Ryan’s continued involvement with the club allows them to build upon a certain level of stability despite the coaching change.
With their season due to commence this weekend in Melbourne with a double header against the Melbourne Ice, there is absolutely no doubt that the Adelaide Adrenaline will be raring to go under their new head coach.
The challenges are certainly there this year, but it seems that the Adelaide Adrenaline is well-prepared and ready to face step up to any obstacle - on or off the ice.