Goaltending will be key
Goaltending will be key
Hungary chasing dream of promotion
They need to have a number of quality forwards, a strong presence on the blue line but most importantly a goaltender who if needed can put the team on his back and carry them to victory.
In the last decade or so goaltending has never really been a problem for the Hungarian national team regardless of whether the head coach was Pat Cortina, Ted Sator, Kevin Primeau or current coach Rich Chernomaz.
After last year’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Goyang, Korea, one of the bright spots was the goalie situation. Zoltan Hetenyi played great and Peter Sevela was a very capable backup even though he did not get a chance to play.
Heading into this season it looked as if Hungary would have Hetenyi and Sevela battling all season for the number one spot, with Miklos Rajna and Bence Balizs filling out the roster for the international breaks.
Of course things always change and a coach can never truly plan ahead. In the offseason Hetenyi had some health issues that sidelined him and Sevela had some personal issues. During the first international break head coach Rich Chernomaz had called seven goalies into camp, five participated as Sevela and Hetenyi were unable to play. In the end David Duschek was the third goalie to join Rajna and Balizs. For the February international break Chernomaz had only Rajna and Balizs travel to Poland with Jozsef Pleszkan attending in case of emergency.
Right at the start of the season it was revealed that Zoltan Hetenyi was dealing with serious health issues but he would be ready to play after taking some time off.Continue reading
Weeks after coming back from Goyang he had a muscle spasm in his neck and passed out, luckily his brother was in the room and was able to call an ambulance. Hetenyi woke up in the hospital where he was kept for a number of weeks pumped full of medicine and pain killers.
Just around the time of the start of training camps he was finally able to leave the hospital and prepare for the upcoming season. About a week before the start of the EBEL, he ended up in the hospital again, this time it was for a longer stint and he would not be stepping on the ice for the foreseeable future.
In short the doctors revealed a sort of infection that attacked his brain marrow that they had trouble properly diagnosing. The goalie ended up missing the entire EBEL season, however, he was allowed to do some light jogging towards the end of the season. He was able to get himself up to strength to get medically cleared to practice with Fehervar AV19.
In the end of the season in the Hungarian Cup with Fehervar having a large lead against Debrecen, head coach Rob Pallin put Hetenyi in for the last 10 minutes in place of Rajna. After stopping all five shots faced and a standing ovation from the home crowd, two days later he received an invitation from Rich Chernomaz to join the Hungarian national team training camp.
After the long road back Hetenyi will be the emergency goalie for Hungary and will be able to lend a hand when needed.
“I will try to help and support the guys as much as I can. Sometimes it’s just being an extra goalie when one of the skaters wants to take some extra shots after practice. I’ll be watching the games from the stands, if I happen to see something I will pass that information on to them,” says Hetenyi.
For several years Hungary has named two goalies for the World Championship events who were not on the final roster the year before. This was for various reasons. In the past former NHL draft pick Levente Szuper had to miss the World Championship because of his commitment to his clubs.
In 2012 both Szuper and Hetenyi could not make it because of their club seasons and the coach at the time had to rely on a very young Balizs with the veteran Krisztian Budai backing him up.
With Szuper hanging up the goalie mask in 2013 it was thought that Hungary would have a nice stable set of goalies with Hetenyi, Balizs Rajna, with the naturalized Sevela, with Pleszkan, Agoston and a pair of young goalies born in 1996 in Gergely Arany and Daniel Kornakker.
As for this season it looks as if the national team is in safe hands with whoever Rich Chernomaz and goalie coach Gary Clark tap as the number one keeper.
Assistant coach Gergely Majoross, who has been around the Hungarian national team first as a player and since 1999 on the coaching staff, has seen the development of goalies and also the changing of the guard.
“In the last 10-15 years any time we did something special, winning [the Division I event] in Sapporo [in 2008] or playing tight games against Slovakia and Belarus in 2009 it had a lot to do with goaltending. We had great goalies who kept us in the games,” Majoross said.
“If I think about it, yes, Hungarian goaltending has always been good. We are really happy with the two guys we have. Miklos played at a higher level but didn't play as many games and Bence played all season and won three trophies in one season. If a goalie can win games then you want to bring them.”
Debutants from near and far
At last year’s World Championship Division I Group A, Peter Sevela was one of the five players making their debuts. He was the oldest of this quintet and also the only one not born in Hungary. After playing five season for Dunaujvaros in the MOL Liga he acquired citizenship and earned his way onto the Hungarian roster. Now other naturalized players will follow.
This year Canadian-born players Tyler Metcalfe, Frank Banham and Andrew Sarauer will be playing for Hungary. Banham played the parts of four seasons in the NHL, Sarauer is a former Vancouver Canucks draft pick.
Metcalfe has Hungarian roots and the idea of playing for his grandfather's homeland is nothing new. For him it’s a dream come true: “I’m really excited for the tournament to finally begin and represent Hungary. My grandfather is the reason I'm able to play here and he's been an idol of mine my whole life. The fact that he passed away earlier this season makes me more determined to do anything and everything I can to help honour where he was born.”
It seems like every year Coach Chernomaz is turning a forward into a defenceman and this year is no different as Metcalfe will be on the blueline. “He would be a big help up front but we decided to play him as a defenceman, which worked really well. He has all the tools to be successful at this level and he can make plays. Metcalfe is not afraid to hang on to the puck and make good plays under pressure. He has composure on the back end,” said Majoross.
Frank “the tank” Banham turned 40 earlier this week and will move up the average age of the team as most of the squad is under the age of 30. Chernomaz also has a group of four U20 forwards. The large amount of young pups getting into the squad is partially due to the youth program that was implemented a few years ago and has been run under the supervision of Glen Williamson.
One player that would have made the final roster is Gergo Nagy, but his team, the Kalamazoo Wings, made the ECHL playoffs, so he will not be in Krakow. Janos Vas will be missing the first game against Japan because Slavia Prague is in the fight to avoid relegation in the Czech Extraliga. Long-time team captain Viktor Tokaji did not step on the ice at all during the training camp because of an ankle injury and Ladislav Sikorcin was left off the roster because of an ankle injury as well. Istvan Bartalis got injured on the last practice before the trip, according to early reports he suffered from a torn ligament in the knee.
Head coach Rich Chernomaz has said time and time again that Hungary is going to Krakow to win and their goal is to take it game by game and be the last team standing. There are teams that might be bigger or stronger but this squad can not be left out from the battle for promotion.
Hungarian national team
Bence Balizs, Miskolci Jegesmedvek
Zoltan Hetenyi, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Miklos Rajna, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Balazs Goz, Miskolci Jegesmedvek
Daniel Kiss, Ujpest Budapest
Tyler Metcalfe, Miskolci Jegesmedvek
Attila Orban, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Tamas Pozsgai, Dunaujvaros
Bence Sziranyi, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Marton Vas, Lowen Frankfurt (GER-2)
Frank Banham, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Andras Benk, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Csanad Erdely, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Janos Hari, MODO Ornskoldsvik (SWE)
Daniel Koger, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Csaba Kovacs, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Balint Magosi, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Krisztian Nagy, Miskolci Jegesmedvek
Andrew Sarauer, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
Balazs Sebok, Hokki Kajaani (FIN-2)
Istvan Sofron, Krefeld Pinguine (GER)
Janos Vas, Slavia Prague (CZE)
Peter Vincze, Fehervar AV19 (EBEL)
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