With less than a week to go until the World Para Ice Hockey Championships get underway in Ostrava, Czech Republic, we are profiling each of the eight contenders for gold. Following Japan, Norway and Sweden, it is now the turn of Italy to take the spotlight.
Italy finished in sixth place in their first three World Championship appearances, and fifth place in their last three. If there is any pattern to their performances, a fourth-place finish may be in the cards this time around. Or, with the talent they have, an even better result.
At the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, the European silver medalists fell to host nation South Korea in the bronze-medal game, recording their best finish at the Paralympics.
World Ranking: 5th
World Championships History:
2017: 5th place
2015: 5th place
2013: 5th place
2012: 6th place
2009: 6th place
2008: 6th place
One to Watch: Sandro Kalegaris, who formerly played for Austria, has become the backbone of Italy’s offense. At 28, he is just entering his prime, and is much of the reason the team made their first Paralympic semi-final last year.
Don’t Count Out: Remember Nils Larchi? He is the one who scored the game-winning goal in a penalty shootout to lead Italy to a 3-2 victory over favoured Norway in the opening match at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics. He is considerably young at 21, and the best matches of his career are still ahead of him.
Matchup to Watch: Italy vs. South Korea, if it were to happen. Because of the new schedule format, these two teams will not meet in the preliminary round. But it is likely they could meet in the playoff round, and fans would be in for a real treat. At the last World Championships Italy won on penalties and at last year’s Games South Korea reversed the result with a one-goal win.
Worth Mentioning: Four players will be new to the Italian roster in Ostrava: Alex Enderle, Stefan Kerschbaumer, Gabriele Lanza, and Francesco Torella. They will provide what used to be a veteran-heavy squad an infusion of much-needed youth.