Cortina wins 17th Italian title
by Derek O'Brien|16 FEB 2023
The SG Cortina players celebrate after winning the “scudetto”.
photo: Vito De Romeo
SG Cortina has won the Italian Hockey League Serie A, clinching the title on Sunday after beating Ritten Sport 2-1 at the historic Stadio Olimpico del Ghiaccio to finish a perfect 3-0 in the four-team final round. It is the 17th national title for Cortina, but the first since 2007.

“Everyone in the highlands and the whole of Veneto are celebrating the hockey championship won by Sportivi Ghiaccio Cortina,” Veneto regional president Luca Zaia said in an official statement. “This is a true triumph that brings the national title back to the ‘Queen of the Dolomites’ after 16 years. I express my congratulations to the whole team and join in the joy of the many fans.”

In the decisive game, Cortina took the early lead on a goal from forward Diego Cuglietta. Then with the score tied 1-1, defender Michael Angelo Zanatta scored the winner at 32:10 on a wrist shot from the high slot that beat Ritten goaltender Hayden Hawkey over the glove. Hawkey stopped 23 of 25 Cortina shots in the game, while at the other end, Marco Di Filippo stopped 22 of 23 Ritten shots for the victory. 

In the final round, which is played in a round-robin format among the final four teams, Cortina had previously beaten HC Meran 3-0 and the Unterland Cavaliers 3-1. Ritten had also beaten the same two opponents to set up the one-game showdown for the national championship. 

“I am happy because the boys have given everything throughout the season,” club president Silvio Bernardi told after the last game. Bernardi played for Cortina in the early 1970s. 

Italy’s national championship was contested this season by seven teams who also play in the Alps Hockey League, along with seven Austrian teams and one from Slovenia. The other teams include the Wipptal Broncos, Fassa Falcons and HC Gherdeina. All of these teams are located in the northern part of the country in or near the Alps, where ice hockey and other winter sports are most popular in Italy. 

In Serie A’s qualification phase, the seven teams play 12 games – one home and one away against each of the other teams. These games are also part of the Alps Hockey League’s regular-season schedule, where each team plays 28 games – one home and one away against each of the other 14 teams. At the end of ’s Serie A’s qualification phase, the top four teams advance to the final round. These games are staged separately from Alps League second-round games. Cortina, Ritten and Unterland each finished among the top-five in the Alps League’s regular-season standings are currently playing in the “Master Round” to decide that league’s championship.

Canadian-born Cuglietta – who played four seasons of NCAA hockey at Lake Superior State University and then split three pro seasons between the AHL and ECHL – is the team’s offensive leader with 39 points in 29 Alps League games and had three points in two games of the Serie A’s final round. Another big scorer for the team is Finnish forward Mikael Saha, who played seven years in Liiga for Assat Pori and Jukurit Mikkeli.

The team’s captain is 37-year-old centre Francesco Adami, who has played for Cortina continuously since 2001. He is the team’s all-time leader in games played (722) and penalty minutes (636) and is second in assists (193) and points (299).

“We have a good group; a good mix of young and old. We put in a lot of work and this is a nice reward.” Adami told while still on the ice celebrating the victory.

The only Cortina player ahead of Adami in several career offensive categories is the team’s current head coach, Giorgio De Bettin, who retired as a player in 2015 and is still comfortably the club’s all-time leader in goals (144), assists (324) and points (468). De Bettin has been the team’s head coach since 2018. Currently, he is also head coach of the Italian national U20 team and an assistant coach on the senior men’s national team.

Additionally, current players Di Filippo, Tomasso Traversa, Luca Zanatta and recently-acquired Marco Sanna have all played for the Italian national team at various times – Traversa and Sanna both played in last year’s IIHF World Championship in Finland.

Another notable player from the past is Ivano Zanatta, who last year coached China at the Winter Olympics. Zanatta’s three sons have all played for Cortina – two still do. As well, American centre Matt Cullen played one season in Cortina during the 2004/05 NHL lockout.

Formed in 1924, Cortina won its first national title in 1932 and had its real heyday between 1957 and 1975, winning 14 titles in 19 seasons, including a run of five in a row from 1964 to 1968. Cortina d'Ampezzo, a mountain resort town of less than 6000 full-time residents, also hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics, and Stadio Olimpico del Ghiaccio – built for those games – opened in 1955 and has been the club’s home rink ever since. It will host curling at the 2026 Winter Olympics, which will be based in Milan and Cortina.

“While the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics are being prepared,” Zaia continued, “this success reminds us how the Ampezzo Basin is a true cradle of sports that are identified with snow and ice, and that its name is able to evoke them internationally, being a true reference all over the world.”

By winning the Italian championship, Cortina has qualified for the IIHF Continental Cup for the first time ever. The team previously competed in the IIHF European Cup on eight occasions in the 1960s and ‘70s, reaching the semi-finals in 1970/71.