Special guests enjoy spectacle of Sydney Derby

April 11, 2024

Special guests enjoy spectacle of Sydney Derby

The puck dropped on the 2024 Australian Ice Hockey League over the weekend, and the Sydney Derby enjoyed a packed VIP area to mark the occasion. NSW Minister for Sport, the Hon Steve Kamper MP, dropped the puck to begin the festivities.

Mr Kamper told Bears' media that it was the first live hockey game he had attended, and he was impressed with the enthusiastic crowd. Also in attendance were new patron of the AIHL, Mick McCormack, and AIHL Director of Commercials, Bob Turner.

Mr McCormack was announced as the new patron of the league at the AIHL season launch last month at Bondi Icebergs. The recognition of his contributions to the league is appreciated by Mr McCormack.

"I'm absolutely thrilled about it," Mr McCormack told Bears' media. "I've had a long time involvement with hockey here in Australia. That all arose because I spent a lot of time on and off in Canada. I'm very very pleased to be the first patron of the league down here.

"I'm very hopeful that we can grow it into a serious sport down here, which is what hockey deserves, it's a great game. I'm very much looking forward to kicking that on."

Remarking on the sell-out crowd, Mr McCormack concluded, "I'm really happy to see the Macquarie Ice Rink here absolutely jam-packed. If that's the way the season plays out, I think we will be very happy by the time Grand Final time comes around in Melbourne.

The new Director of Commercials, Bob Turner, personally invited many of the 30+ guests in the packed VIP area. "On behalf of the AIHL it's great to have a spectacle like this where the crowd's full, the standards good, lots of scoring, and the people that I brought along hadn't been to a game, including the Minister for Sport," Mr Turner told Bears' media.

"These people love sports, so when they walk in and they look around and they go, 'wow, I had no idea this was going on'. A bit like me six months ago when I came to my first game, and I thought how long has this been going on, and someone said 24 years. So you know that the potential of this is fantastic.

"As we build the following, the following is good enough and it's unique. I've seen a lot of sport in my days. I've been involved with a dozen different sports, this is very unique, and it's at a level where it's fun to watch. This is a good quality standard and people have a good time."

New Recruits Shape Bears Victory

Kenshin Hayashi got the Bears on the board first, burying a Shawn Rooke rebound past Ice Dogs' netminder Jakob Doornbos. Finnish import Samuli Vainionpää scored an insurance marker just over a minute later off a fine feed from new recruit Jake Riley.

Photo Credit: Willie Krause

Dmitri Kuleshov got one back for the Ice Dogs, picking Rooke's pocket in his own zone and speeding in alone on goal. Kuleshov showed good hands to put it past Bears' goaltender Dane Brumm.

Less than two minutes later, import Adam Kadlec picked up a pass from Eugene Ju on the left wing just inside the blueline, slashed across the zone to the right circle, and fired across Doornbos' body to the far side.

Tyerell Clare added to the lead with a dart from the right circle, and Noah Moncrieff finished off an excellent counter-attacking play with 17 seconds left in the second period to make the score 5-1.

Photo Credit: Willie Krause

Just 22 seconds into the final period the Ice Dogs were digging the puck out of their net again as Vainionpää found a seam with a beautiful cross ice pass to find Tomas Landa who converted from the left-circle.

Later in the period, with the Bears on the powerplay, the Ice Dogs drew one back. Max Miller picked up a loose puck in his defensive zone and raced in on Brumm on a two-on-one with Kenwrick Sze.

Miller tried to pass, but Bears' defenseman Ryan Annesley blocked the attempt. However, the puck went straight back to Miller who shot past Brumm to make it 6-2.

It was Miller's first career AIHL goal, and an assist was credited to Sze for his first AIHL point. There was no further scoring, and the fans clad in red, white, and black went home happy.

Sydney Ice Dogs Postgame Comments

"A lot of promise," Sydney Ice Dogs' Head Coach Jason Kvisle told Bears' media following the game. "We have a very young team with a lot of promise.

"It's an unfortunate scoreline, I think if we buried a few in the first period where we went over the net a couple of times and just didn't capitalise, it would have been a tied game all the way through.

Bright spots for the club include the first goal for Max Miller, and first assist for Kenwrick Sze. "The puck is in my pocket, I have the stickers ready to go," Kvisle said, referring to Miller's goal. "I actually had to say to him, 'hey, is that your first goal', and then send someone to get the puck. I kind of expected Max to have scored before, Max is a great kid.

"We're working with him, a lot of things off the ice that we're working with him as well. I'm happy for him, I'm glad he got that.

"Also, they [young players] played well, minutes are limited, but when they went out there this game they made the most of it. They earned it in the third period. But the small little one percenters are the things that killed us that game.

"We can play hockey for 15 minutes really well, but have five minutes of mistakes and poor decision making, and you just can't do it at this level," Kvisle concluded.

New Ice Dogs' import Kenwrick Sze's signing made the Manila Times in the Philippines. He was glad to play in his first game, commenting that it was a "Good experience, competitive and really physical. But there's lots of space to grow here."

And how did it feel to score his first AIHL point? "Great, at least I'm contributing things to the team, I'm happy with that." Now, the goal for the season for Sze is to "Try to win Rookie of the Year, but I just want to give my best to the Ice Dogs" he stated.

Sydney Bears Postgame Comments

The Bears' newest import, Kadlec travelled from the United States to Australia, and arrived Saturday morning before hitting the ice that afternoon. Kadlec spent time in the Western Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League, however injuries interrupted his career, and he's spent some time away from the game.

After recovering, the 24-year-old forward from Chicago, Illinois, is looking to restart his career in Australia.

"I spent two days in airports and came here," Kadlec told Bears' media. "It's good to get that [first goal] in there. I think after getting off the plane I was a bit hesitant as to how that was going to affect me, but getting that out of the system felt great."

"It's a great group of guys, I was welcomed right away. The game was amazing, couldn't have gone better. I think we were coming together well. It was great overall, the body feels great, I'll definitely get to sleep here, going back at it next week, I'll be practised up, rested, and good to go.

"It was obviously a great team win overall, so it was great to have that, and carry that momentum for the rest of the year now," Kadlec noted.

The game was also the debut for new bench boss, Tyler Huberty.

Photo Credit: Willie Krause

"Excellent," Huberty told Bears' media when asked how he felt about his first AIHL game behind the bench. "I couldn't ask for a better result, six-two, very pleased with what I saw from our team and how we performed.

"But now that I've had the opportunity to see our line-up perform in a game, it gives me a lot better picture of what we are, and now it's just time to go look at the film and get ready for Adelaide.

Three players recorded their first career AIHL points, including Vainionpää and Kadlec with goals, and Eugene Ju with an assist.

"We gave them all their pucks from when they scored, it's definitely a big deal for them to get their first points in Australia and even for Eugene to get his first assist," Huberty observed. "It's a big deal because he's [Ju] a young guy.

"I think that him getting his first assist in this league is huge, so I'm really happy with all three of those guys, and really with our whole line-up with how everyone played tonight. We've just got to continue to build on it."

For the Bears' management group, the win off the ice was equally important to the win on the ice.

"It was brilliant, it was everything that I guess the management and playing group were hoping for," Sydney Bears Governor Nathan Graham told Bears' media. "It's a long off-season and a long preparation time leading into game one.

"You sit back and do all the hard work, but you never truly know how many people are going to turn out. Certainly it's exactly what we were hoping for and it's an off-ice win, and a good win by the boys to open up the account.

"It's probably all you could ask for from game one, and a lot of new staff today, which is going to help them to get a game under their belt as well."

Graham was also thrilled with the contributions of the new import players and coach, stating, "Considering Adam Kadlec has literally arrived today, he was from the airport into the game. Samuli has had one skate with the team, and Tyler has been here under a week.

"So I think for a group who are so integral to our season to come in and make the transition pretty seamless is promising. It's something to build on, and I must say, my dealings with Tyler so far within a week has been nothing but professional. You can tell that he knows how to conduct himself and it's been a win all around."

The club has been busy this offseason recruiting young local talent to the club, including Eugene Ju, Tyrone Oxlade, Mac Tutton, and Brody Lindal. For these players to join the team and immediately contribute impressed the Bears' Governor.

Photo Credit: Willie Krause

"It's important," Graham continued. "We had a lot of conversations internally in the offseason about bringing in or making a genuine attempt to... I wouldn't say start a succession plan, but the Bears traditionally have been a team built with a lot of experience.

"To have a bit of balance and to give kids an opportunity at the AIHL level is really important, and it's good to see that whole plan come together, from starting to identify who we wanted and then seeing them take the ice and actually make an impact in their first game for the club is again very promising. I think that's something to celebrate as well."

The next Bears' home game is Saturday, May 4 at 5 pm against the Adelaide Adrenaline. Click here to purchase your tickets for the game.

This article is being published on both the Hockey Hype Australia and Sydney Bears' websites with permission from the aforementioned entities and the author, Gordon Goodenough.

Article by Gordon Goodenough

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