MILAN Ė The Italian Ice Sports Federation (FISG) announced that it has terminated the contract with Rick Cornacchia and named Tom Pokel new head coach of the menís national team.
Cornacchia was in his fifth year of coaching the Squadra Azzurra. He led the team to the top division in 2009 and 2011 where it was relegated in 2010 and 2012. Rumours about Cornacciaís release already surfaced in November when his team had big losses against Slovenia, Austria and France in a four nations tournament in Ljubljana.
Pokel was hired to coach the team in the Final Olympic Qualification Group D in Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany, 7-10 February, and in the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Budapest, Hungary, 14-20 April.
In the Final Olympic Qualification, Italy will face Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in the city where Pokel was once coaching the local club team. The winner of the tournament will qualify for the Olympic menís ice hockey tournament in Sochi 2014.
Two months later in Budapest, Italy will be aiming for a quick return to the top division of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship by finishing in first or second place in the tournament that also includes Kazakhstan, Hungary, Japan, Great Britain and Korea.
The 45-year-old Green Bay, Wisconsin native started his coaching career early. He worked as a coach in Germany from 1995 to 2004 for Timmensdorfer Strand, Trier, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Schwenningen and Ingolstadt.
From 2004 to 2009 Pokel was coaching Feldkirch, Lustenau, Graz and Zell am See in Austria and also led the Austrian U18 national team in 2008.
In the past three seasons he was the head coach of Pontebba of the Italian Serie A and also worked as an assistant coach for the Netherlandsí menís national team in the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A.
Since this season he has been coaching another Serie A team, Alleghe Hockey.