Hungary back in elite
Hungary back in elite
Magyars look to surprise at this year's Worlds
The Hungarians have the ingredients to possibly surprise at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. The last time Hungary competed in the top division in 2009 they faced off against half of the teams in Group B this year. In Switzerland they had a last-minute loss against Slovakia, 4-3, along with losses to Belarus (4-2) and to Canada (9-0), all teams that they will play against in St. Petersburg as well. A lot has changed since 2009 though. Hungarian hockey is on the rise and this time around they have a nice mix of veterans and youth with players coming from some of the top leagues in Europe. The Hungarian team is made up of players playing in eight different countries.
Hungary has two experienced goaltenders to pick from. Zoltan Hetenyi was the go to guy in three World Championships events and played in three of the games in the top division in 2009. Miklos Rajna backstopped Hungary to promotion last year in Krakow. Rounding out the goaltenders is 22-year-old Adam Vay, who in his first year of professional hockey was named goalie of the year in the Hungarian-Romanian MOL Liga.
On the blueline there has been a natural turnover. For a better part of 20 years Hungary had a core group of six defencemen and this turnover started in 2013 when team captain Marton Vas was moved from forward to defence. Joining Vas on the blue line is a peculiar group of seven player. There are three naturalized Canadians in Kalvin Sagert, Kevin Wehrs and Jesse Dudas. who has Hungarian roots. Bence Sziranyi has become an experienced and reliable defender who scored the winning goal against Poland last year. Rounding out this group are 1997-born Bence Stipsicz and Zsombor Garat. Along with Vas, Sagert and Dudas bring size and Wehrs has speed along with the two young defenders.
Like on the back end the Hungarian team up front has both youth and experience with the oldest forward being Frank Banham at the age of 41 and the youngest Vilmos Gallo, 19. These two players will likely be playing on one line. The top-two lines have some skill and size. Daniel Koger, Andrew Sarauer and Istvan Sofron will build the first line with Balazs Sebok rounding out the second line. Look for Csanad Erdely so also get some shifts on that line. The bottom two lines have more grit as well as experience. Csaba Kovacs, Janos Vas, Gergo Nagy and Andras Benk were all on the 2009 World Championship team. The first three will play together with Istvan Bartalis rotating in. This tournament will be extra special for Bartalis, who suffered a knee injury on the day before the team was supposed to leave for Krakow before last year’s World Championship Division I Group A. Playing together now for almost two years is the trio of Benk, Krisztian Nagy and Balint Magosi. This line goes all out and they play an aggressive but clean style of hockey that can cause problems to other teams.
Rich Chernomaz is the skipper of this ship. This will be his fourth World Championship with Hungary. He has spent his coaching career in Germany but his personality is reflected on the team as they are hard-nosed and will fight until the end. Chernomaz has tried to bring in recently retired Hungarians onto his coaching staff. Gergely Majoross will be joining him on the bench with Tamas Sille and Viktor Tokaji also helping out. Rounding out the staff will be fellow Canadians Diego Scandella and goalie coach Gary Clark. Scandella was on the coaching staff under Pat Cortina when Hungary won promotion in 2008 and on the 2009 team with Majoross, Sille and Tokaji who were players at that time.
The safe bet would say that Hungary will most likely be relegated back to Division I Group A. Fans in Hungary would not be surprised with that considering that it took seven years to get back to the top division – and even 70 years to get back for the 2009 Worlds. The next step in the development in the Hungarian national team would be to become an “elevator” team like Kazakhstan or Slovenia that is up one year and down the next. Picking up points against Slovakia, Germany or France will be the immediate goal but that hasn’t happened for a while. The last time Hungary was ranked better than any of these teams was in 1983 when Hungary beat France 3-1 on home ice, but that game was in the World Championship C-Pool. Still, people should not underestimate the Mighty Magyars, who will be followed on-site and at home by many passionate hockey fans.
Back to Overview