On Friday, September 17th, the ICE Hockey League starts into a new era.
After the league expansion, 14 teams are now on the puck hunt in the national league. LAOLA1-Scout Bernd Freimüller takes a close look at all teams. Today in check: The Black Wings Linz.
What has happened in the summer of the last-placed team in 2020/21? What are the strengths and weaknesses? And what can you expect from the Linzers? The answers:
That was going on in the summer
After a potential competitor / successor team collapsed like a broken camping chair, ice hockey in Linz was a bit quiet. Long-term President Peter Freunschlag is history, his successor Peter Nader still has to find new financial sources in addition to the main sponsor Steinbach, which will probably only happen after the Upper Austria elections.
In terms of sport, coach Dan Ceman, who made the Black Wings competitive again, rebuilt the team again with GM Gregor Baumgartner. It didn’t go completely smoothly: both goalie Jussi Rynnäs and center Dustin Boyd – both routine commitments in the summer – had to be found at short notice. The same should also apply to the knee injured Kai Kantola.
Strengths and weaknesses of the squad
One thing is noticeable at first glance: the people of Linz will only fail because of the quantity if they suffer a huge number of injuries. Ceman has (at least) seven defenders and 13 strikers, not counting cracks like Laurin Müller, Jakob Mitsch or Stefan Freunschlag.
I already count seven contenders for the two top lines (including a Kantola replacement), plus players with useful offensive skills (their susceptibility to injury once neglected) such as Stefan Gaffal, Andreas Kristler or Alexander Lahoda. A center axis with Andris Dzerins-William Pelletier-Marco Brucker-Julian Pusnik is not equipped with potential highscorers, but is more than just suitable for leagues.
Dragan Umicevic and Brian Lebler are no longer youngsters (36/33), but they are still absolute offensive guarantors. Ceman understandably spoke out against another pure offensive player in their midst (both are defensively more porous) – can Dzerins regulate the traffic between the two better than the somewhat overwhelmed Juha-Pekka Hytönen last year? I know Dzerins from many World Cups and KHL-Gaming – he was always a physically strong man for all situations, but with a manageable production that has recently declined even further.
A lot could depend on Dzerins, in any case Kantola would have been a likely offensive guarantor. After a knee injury, however, he is out longer, at 34 years of age and as an already weak ice skater, his future is in the stars. His successor should definitely bring scorer genes with him, otherwise too much will stick to the top line again.
Four legionnaires on the defensive, of whom Josh Roach and Blaz Gregorc were good people. If Chris Rumble and Maxim Lamarche can deliver more than just average (a capitalized “case” for me), the defense with the Austrians Gerd Kragl, Ramon Schnetzer and Raphael Wolf (or his injury substitute David Maier) should be a huge upgrade over the previous year .
Interesting personal details
Not only in the games against the Capitals, from which he did not end up on good terms, Raffi Rotter will show up with even greater ambition than before. As always, the question remains for him whether he can survive the season without injuries, but after a stable summer he was in much better shape recently than last.
The information about Chris Rumble was always the same and also agreed with the eye test: “Very lovable and life-affirming, but often weak and without the last drive”. Can he present himself with more consistency in Linz than in his last stations, especially in terms of production and / or physical play?
The (massive) body of Jussi Rynnäs didn’t take part this year, which couldn’t come as a surprise. With Jared Coreau came another goalie giant (1.97 meters). He actually led the Bratislava Capitals into the playoffs after his engagement, but I’m not a big fan: A typical shot blocker without great athletic skills who often can’t keep up with quick plays with his legs.
A catastrophic start like last year can be ruled out – the team is deeper and better staffed, Dan Ceman was able to implement his concept well in the current season. Even if there are some question marks, the Black Wings could find themselves in a (front) midfield group with Graz or the VSV. However, the many (unintended) personnel losses in the summer are worrying.
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