On Friday, September 17th, the ICE Hockey League starts into a new era.
After the league expansion, 14 teams are now on the hunt for pucks and points in the national league. LAOLA1-Scout Bernd Freimüller takes a close look at all teams. Today in check: The HC Innsbruck.
What has happened to the Tyroleans in the summer? What are the strengths and weaknesses? And what can you expect from the “sharks”? The answers:
That was going on in the summer
For a team with limited financial possibilities like the Innsbrucker Haie, the same applies every year: The players you want to keep are looking for the distance, those who would like to stay (due to lack of performance) are no longer wanted. Many legionaries came to Scandinavia, the two outstanding forwards Braden Christoffer and Daniel Ciampini even made it into the Finnish and Swedish top leagues.
From the legionaries only goalie Tom McCollum and defender Jan Lattner remained, coach Mitch O’Keefe had to acquire nine new guest workers. With Daniel Jakubitzka, Nico Feldner and Martin Ulmer, three experienced league players came to the Austrian sector.
Strengths and weaknesses of the squad
Without even wanting to ask the question of quality: The squad does not produce more than 18 (very generously judged) skaters suitable for the league, especially on the defensive it is just enough for six men. Since, in contrast to other teams, failures cannot be replaced immediately, there is no room for injury at all. At the latest in the game-intensive phase around Christmas, the Haie should once again reach their personnel limits.
Will O’Keefe finally manage to set up the team better defensively? The Haie couldn’t score as many goals as they received in the last few seasons – a main reason for only two playoff appearances in nine years. Of course, it’s not just about the goalie and defense, the strikers must finally put the common good above their personal statistics.
Simon Bourque (from the French league) should be placed in the PP, Jan Lattner (always a certain free spirit) and Joel Messner should also have good puck skills, Antonin Boruta can act erratically, but brings league routine with him. I have Ben Betker in the Slovakia also seen in the power play, but the tall Canadian should act like Daniel Jakubitzka mainly in the PK and in a shutdown role. Does this group – if the six stay fit for a long time – make a group with two-way skills? Five defensive legionaries is quite a luxury.
Alex Dostie and Michael Hunterbrinker are supposed to bring speed in attack, Tim McGauley and Daniel Leavens recently formed a good duo in Norway. O’Keefe wavered for a long time last season between two pure Legionnaire lines and three more balanced formations. This year he wants to split his staff into three lines / pairs, with which people like Ulmer, Feldner and Dario Winkler have to deliver.
Interesting personal details
The commitment of goalie McCollum was not clear from the start – his first half of the season was to be forgotten, he acted much too hectically. Towards the end he got better, seemed calmer and more collected. The chances of getting something better on the very problematic goalie market this summer would have been negligible, not only because of the limited Haie pen ounce.
Michael Huntebrinker was always a conspicuous man in the ECHL, for the AHL it was only enough for a short time. His speed was already noticeable in the preseason, he could become an attraction for the sharks.
The duo McGauley / Leavens acted in Stjernen as a good complement: McGauley the puck bearer and preparer, Leavens a shooter with a long range despite somewhat heavy legs. Can they perform as well in the ICE? The footsteps of the duo Ciampini / Christoffer are very big.
The VSV let Martin Ulmer go despite a valid contract. To put it hard: he was recently an offensive player without an offensive. At 33 he won’t be a two-way player anymore, but the expectations of him in Innsbruck are high – he simply has to score consistently. The same applies to Nico Feldner, who would actually have a massive body and a good wrister, but is waiting for his offensive outburst.
Maybe you can themselves the sharks really improve their performance in their own zone and thus play for the playoff places for a longer period of time. But where other teams only start counting after four or five injuries, a failure in Innsbruck means a hole in the lineup, two or more are the beginning of the end. Such a tightly cut staff dress should expose unwanted nakedness by December at the latest. If everything stays healthy, at least four teams could find themselves behind the Tyroleans, in the event of injuries the betting rate drops dramatically.
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