Ice Blacks’ chance to impress on world stage

The Ice Ferns raised the bar — now it is up to the Ice Blacks to follow suit.

New Zealand’s men get their chance to shine on the global stage when they play at the division two, group B world championships in Bulgaria next week.

They will seek to maintain a nice upward trend for ice hockey in this country following the Ice Ferns’ fourth placing at their world championship event recently, and the efforts of the under-18 women (gold) and under-20 men (silver).

The Ice Blacks had an excellent preparation for the world championships with a three-test series against Australia.

Despite being a world division below their transtasman rivals, the Ice Blacks claimed their first win over the Mighty Roos on Australian soil, and two of the games went to overtime.

Their first game in Bulgaria is against Chinese Taipei on Monday night (NZ time).

The Ice Blacks then face Georgia, Bulgaria and Belgium before wrapping the tournament with a clash against Turkey.

There is naturally a strong southern presence in the Ice Blacks squad, with no fewer than eight Southern Stampede players and one from the Dunedin Thunder.

Star Stampede defencemen Stefan Amston and Callum Burns are key members of the squad.

Dylan Devlin, Connor Harrison, Colin McIntosh, Ryan Strayer and the great Matt Schneider are Stampede players on the Ice Blacks’ forward line.

They will be joined by youngster Jackson Flight, the Thunder’s most improved player in 2023.

Stampede wall Joel Hasselman, the best goaltender in the NZIHL last season, will compete with West Auckland Admirals goalie Csaba Kercso-Magos for time between the sticks.

Other players to watch in the New Zealand team include Canadian expatriate Justin Daigle, who coached the New Zealand under-20 men’s team to their silver medal, and youngster Ivan Dalmatau, who scored 13 points in the under-20 team’s world tournament.

Queenstown ice hockey identity Cam Frear is part of the Ice Blacks coaching team under head coach Darren Blong.

The Ice Blacks have made a semi-regular home in the division two, group B world championships.

They were fourth at the tournament last year following three Covid-cancelled events, a bronze medal in 2019 and silver medals in 2018 and 2017.