And now, a special treat for everyone, including ourselves. I interview Melbourne Ice import goalie Gustaf Huth, and find out how he became a goalie, what he thinks about playing in Australia, and he tries Vegemite for the first time ….
The Melbourne Ice has had unprecedented success in the AIHL–no other team has won three consecutive Goodall cups. However, the team has no intention of resting on its laurels. The team is working hard to find the configuration that’s going to bring them further wins.
“Lines are yet to be finalised,” says Melbourne Ice President Emma Poynton. “Head coach Sandy Gardner has been playing the boys in a number of different line combinations to see who works well with who.”
The Ice is using the pre-season to determine which players have the best chemistry. “We still have time to mix and match players to see which line[s] work best together. Melbourne Ice also has a number of players still overseas who need to be factored in once they return as well.”
This is the first time in team history that the Ice will be playing without veteran goalie Stu Denman in the lineup, as he retired at the end of last season. Last year, three goalies were announced, though that number was later cut down to two. That’s not the case this season: all three goalies, including last year’s backup Dahlen Phillips, will be playing.
“Dahlen Phillips will be the starting goalie. It’s intended that all three goalies will have a start this season. It’s a long season and the Ice has twice a week on-ice training as well as dry land gym work. The depth of three goalies will be required.”
The Ice is also seeing some new faces this coming season. Their commitment to the Ice Academy and training and developing the next generation of players definitely reflects in the updated roster. “In the last two years, The Ice Academy has seen Austin McKenzie, Daniel Szalinski, Chris Wong, Paul Lazzarotto, Chris Fahy, Caleb Butler and Mitch Humphries all step up and be selected for the senior squad or senior squad reserve. [This proves] the time, energy and investment into these players is paying off for the Melbourne Ice and the development of skilled hockey players in Victoria.”
Along with the additions of Lazzarotto and Fahy to the senior squad, a familiar face has come back to the fold. Veteran Glen Mayer has come out of retirement. “Glen just loves his hockey and missed the action the Melbourne Ice provides. His children are a little older now which may have helped him find a few extra hours a week for his Melbourne Ice commitments.”
Apart from veteran imports Matt Armstrong and Jason Baclig, the Ice has chosen to bring in defensemen Chris Frank and John Gordon. Emma Poynton explained the choice: “Every team aims to have minimal goals against them. If you don’t let any goals in you have a better chance of winning the game! Two import D will definitely help keep our opponents score line down, in selecting 2 D-men this year we felt that we needed to strengthen up the back line as our local forward talent is (and has always been) very strong.”
Will the Ice be aiming for the 4Peat? “Of course we will be aiming for an awesome foursome 4peat.”
“I’m not my brother.”
It’s the first thing Chris Wong says to me, after we’ve gotten the greetings out of the way and I’ve asked about what subjects he’s doing at school. He’s talking about his academic course of study, but it could well apply to the different paths the Wong brothers have taken to both hockey and life.
Chris and Marcus Wong both play for the Melbourne Ice–Marcus since 2010, and Chris since 2011. Marcus is 19, Chris is 17. Marcus plays defense and Chris is a forward–generally a winger. Marcus was captaining the national Australian Under-18 team when the team won all of its matches in 2011 and was promoted to Division II. Both of them are excellent players, and being so young, they’re hopefully going to be on both the Australian team and the Melbourne Ice for a long time.