The Austria men’s national sledge hockey team are scheduled to depart the country on Friday for Östersund, Sweden for a qualifying game against Finland. Head coach Zdenek Vanek gives his team only a 50/50 chance of defeating the Finns.
On Saturday, Finland and Austria are expected play two games, with the games requiring to go to a shootout should the games end in a tie following regulation and overtime. If necessary, a third game can be played. Both teams have had little time to prepare for this qualifier, with the announcement regarding the qualifier only having been made last month after Estonia withdrew from the competition. Placement at the B World Championship is important because the top two teams will qualify for the A World Championship in 2017, and the last finisher will participate in the C World Championship, a new competition that debuts in 2016.
The national team going to Sweden draws exclusively from two Austrian club teams, the Carinthian Steelers and the Vienna Warriors. Goalkeeper Michael Ossimitz plays for the Steelers, and is the only goalkeeper the team is taking. Defensemen Thomas Schilcher and Stefan Eberdorfer play for the Steelers while Andreas Meixner plays for the warriors. Forwards Jürgen Haindl and Martin Pachoinig also play for the Steelers, while Kai Habeler, Dennis Wliszczak and Stefan Reininger play for the Warriors. Franz Sailer is the team’s assistant coach.
The Finnish team have also been in training in Tampere, Finland. Their team includes goalkeer Timo Karko, and forwarders and defenders Seppo Joensuu, Aki Alestalo, Markku Hirvelä, Harri Kangastie, Tuomas Manni, Jani Antero Roponen, Hannu Oksa, and Kari Seliverstow. The Finnish side is relatively old with Joensuu born in 1958, Hirvelä born in 1966, and Seliverstow born in 1962. The youngest player is Manni, who was born in 1996. The next youngest player is Kangastie who was born in 1984.
Petri Ryhänne is the team manager for Finland, while the team is being coached by Antti Kangas and Jari Hautamäki.