“It will be a sign for me and for the team that we are on a good track to improve every year and achieve results that will bring us closer to the A-Pool.”
The coach of the Slovakian national ice sledge hockey team has said that he hopes improvements in his team’s preparations and training will help their performance at the upcoming World Championships B-Pool.
Miroslav Drab will take a team of 12 players to Tomakomai, Japan, from 28 November to face hosts Japan, Czech Republic and Great Britain. The top three finishers will progress to the qualification tournament for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Slovakia recently played the Czech Republic, Germany and Japan in a Four Nations tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic, finishing third in the standings.
Drab was happy with that showing: “We took the tournament as a rehearsal before the World Championships. Matches showed us the readiness of individual players a month before. I think that as a team we left a good impression during the tournament.”
So what has led to his new found confidence?
“We have increased the number of training sessions during which we have perfected the game skills, we use different game situation in conjunction with players,” Drab said. “We started requiring discipline in all activities of sports training (punctuality, maintaining order, compliance with internal rules) and we managed to maintain a sufficient number of players per team. We have tried to maintain a positive atmosphere in the team.”
Drab has also been joined in the new season by a fresh assistant coach, Radoslav Bielecka. According to Drab, Bielecka “greatly contributed” to their third place finish in Ostrava.
Slovakia have also taken a major leap forward in recent seasons when it comes to major Championships. In 2015 they collected their first medal on the major international stage, with bronze at the B-Pool Worlds in Ostersund, Sweden.
There they took three wins out of five, including in the medal game against Austria.
Drab says that for 2016-17 they have ramped up their preparations even more.
“We have increased the number of players with a big potential,” he said. “This year we prepare on ice sooner; we start training camps in July. It is regular training camp consisting of four days every month, and we added regular training once a week on the ice.
“This season our players play in the Czech sledge hockey league in Czech clubs which greatly helps them, gaining match experience.”
Drab is clear that the Czech Republic are their main rivals for Tomakomai 2016, but Slovakia will do everything they can to retain their third place from 2015.
And if they manage it, Drab even has promotion to the A-Pool in his sights.
“It will be a sign for me and for the team that we are on a good track to improve every year and achieve results that will bring us closer to the A-Pool,” he said.
The 2016 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool will run from 28 November-3 December in Tomakomai. The top three finishers will progress to the qualification tournament for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in 2017.