Four Adelaide Adrenaline players and head coach Ryan O’ Handley are well into training camp for the IIHF Division 2A World Championships in Iceland with the Australian team.
Veteran Greg Oddy will be joined by Adrenaline players Wehebe Darge, David Huxley and Josh Harding in the Mighty Roos team that will take on the likes of Spain, Belgium, Israel, Serbia and Romania.
Oddy has played at sixteen World Championships for Australia, captaining the team on the last four occasions, and is expected to play a leadership role on the team.
Coach O’ Handley said although a captain has not been decided on, Oddy is expected to provide the younger players with leadership, whether it is at an official capacity or not.
“From Greg [Oddy] we expect some leadership because of his experience, but I want to get his offensive game going,” O’ Handley said. “The last couple of years at championships, it hasn’t been where we’d like it, and it’s a short tournament and we want him firing right away offensively.”
Last year, Oddy managed a lone goal and a plus/minus of -2, which wasn’t what you would expect from the all-time leading goalscorer (63) and pointscorer (116) for Australia.
Oddy confirmed he wants to help the younger players on the team to keep everybody on the same page for a short tournament with five games in seven days.
“I’ve been fortunate to go to sixteen or seventeen championships. I guess I’ll be trying to get the guys on the same page for that short period of time, all towards the important goal of gold,” Oddy said.
The team won’t settle for a mediocre performance this year, wanting to bring the gold medal home, after finishing fourth the past two years since being relegated from Division 1 Group B in 2012.
O’Handley is confident in his team and expects them to compete for a gold medal.
“We have high expectations,” O’Handley said. “We have a really good team and we’re going over there to win a gold medal.
“It’s going to be darn hard work to do it, but we’ve got a team that can, and last year we learnt a lot. We’ve made some improvements and we’re a better team, so hopefully that translates into a better placing.”
They will face some tough opponents though, with Romania coming down from Division 1 and Iceland, having the home-crowd advantage.
Australia played Romania in 2012, going down 5-3 at the Division 1B World Championships in Poland, with Oddy making two assists for the game.
Oddy also thinks Iceland could be a potentially awkward side to play due to the home-crowd advantage.
“Iceland at home have a couple of Swedes that have been naturalised, and any time you play a game in front of the home team it’s going to be tough,” he said.
Iceland were ranked at 35 in the world last year, while Australia is a place ahead in 34. Romania is the highest ranked team at the tournament sitting at 27 in the world.
O’Handley has dedicated roles for each of the players on the team, including the Adelaide Adrenaline members, to help the side reach their goal of winning gold.
“Josh Harding played top two minutes on defence last year. He’ll do the same this year,” O' Handley said.
“Wehebe Darge will play against the opposition’s top line because his offensive skills are good, but it’s his quickness and his ability to pick people’s pockets out there. That defensive type game is really frustrating for the other team’s top group to play him.”
Darge is coming back from a few months on the sideline with a broken hand, which he says will be fully healed by the time the tournament begins.
“It [the hand] is getting better again, but I think going away on the Australian team will be good for it because I’ll have a physio with me the whole time, and I’ll be looking after it there,” Darge said.
The Australian Mighty Roos are confident they can come home with the gold, and they are definitely capable with a fast team and a few bigger bodies that can provide the hits.
They play their first game against Spain on 13 April in Reykjavik, Iceland before a rematch with Romania the following day.