New Sydney Bears head coach Ron Kuprowsky believes last weekend’s pre-season tournament win will put his side in good stead heading into the 2016 Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) season.
The Bears, who play out of Penrith Ice Palace, defeated crosstown rivals the Sydney Ice Dogs 3-1 in the Wilson Cup final last Saturday.
Speaking with the Weekender, Kuprowsky said the Wilson Cup victory was the first piece of silverware for the club since 2008.
“It was a long time coming for the boys and everyone was happy about that one,” he said.
“The other teams involved in the tournament – Sydney Ice Dogs and Newcastle North Stars – were without their top imports while we were missing our top Australian players who are competing in Mexico.
“Overall, it was a great atmosphere at the Ice Palace and everyone had fun.”
Previously an assistant coach at the Bears, Kuprowsky takes over the reigns from former coach Vladimir Rubes who stepped down last October due to family commitments.
Kuprowsky was also the head coach of the Sydney Ice Dogs from 2010-2014.
After finishing the 2015 season in second last place, Kuprowsky believes a host of fresh faces as well as competition for spots will propel the Bears up the standings in 2016.
“The team is quite different this year, there’s a lot of new faces,” he said.
“It’s a dynamic squad, we have many players battling for their positions.
“Players will need to play at their best if they want to get selected and it’s showing right now with players giving 100 per cent for the entire game.”
For the second straight year the Bears will call Penrith Ice Palace home. The Jamisontown venue will host 12 Bears games this season plus the 2016 AIHL All Stars Weekend.
Kuprowsky said Penrith are well and truly getting behind ice hockey.
“Having the All Star game in Penrith and winning the Wilson Cup last weekend will no doubt contribute to getting more people to games this season,” he said.
This Sunday at 5pm the Sydney Bears will take on the Canberra Brave at Penrith Ice Palace in the AIHL season opener.
Kuprowsky said it would be a tough fight against one of the competition’s top teams.
Nathan Taylor is the Western Weekender’s award-winning sports journalist. Nathan is also the Weekender’s Deputy Editor.