The situation began on 4 May when two players tested positive, resulting in the cancellation of their trip to Switzerland for a pre-tournament game. In the ensuing days, several more players and staff members tested positive, resulting in the cancellation of all remaining tune-up games. In all, four players – most notably, goaltender Andreas Bernard – have been definitively ruled out of the World Championship and five players – including defenceman Thomas Larkin – and two coaches are being forced to quarantine, but with the hope that they would rejoin the team at some point once they are healthy and cleared to travel.
If that’s not enough, Diego Kostner, Giovanni Morini, Marco Insam, Joachim Ramoser, Domenic Alberga, Ivan Tauferer and Luca Zanatta have all been ruled out due to various injuries. To be clear, even at full strength the Italians would have faced an uphill climb. They now face a monumental task but they’re not throwing in the towel.
GoalBack in 2019, Italy managed to stay in the top group due in no small part to the goaltending of Andreas Bernard, who was fantastic in the do-or-die last game against Austria. He surely would have been the team’s starter this season but has been ruled out after the outbreak. Canadian-born 26-year-old Jake Smith, who plays in the AlpsHL, is another goalie affected but he might still join the team.
As it stands now, the two goalies on the team are Justin Fazio of HC Bolzano and David Fadani of HC Lugano in Switzerland. Fazio, 24, is another Canadian-born goalie who played junior hockey for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting and has now played two seasons in Italy in the Austrian-based ICEHL. Fadani is just 20 years old and played only two games in the top-tier National League, playing most of his season in the second-tier Swiss League or the top junior league. He has represented Italian U18 and U20 teams on numerous occasions.
Currently, the third goalie on the roster who might get bumped if Smith returns, is 16-year-old Damian Clara of the famed Red Bull Academy in Salzburg, Austria. If he does happen to play, it would make him the third-youngest player in World Championship history.
DefenceItaly’s best defenceman is 30-year-old Thomas Larkin, who is just coming off his best season as a pro with 21 points in 33 games in his fifth season for Adler Mannheim in the DEL. The British-born defenceman played in the NCAA, AHL, KHL and has represented Italy at three World Championships. He currently isn’t with the team, but he might still join them later once he’s cleared to come. In the same boat are veteran blueliners Enrico Miglioranzi and Alex Trivellato.
At the start of the tournament, Italy’s defence is going to be a bit thin, with only Stefano Marchetti and Daniel Glira having any previous World Championship experience. Marchetti is a 34-year-old veteran who has played his entire career in Italy and has represented the Azzuri in eight World Championships – four at the elite level – and three Olympic qualifiers. He will be leaned on immensely. Glira is 27 and played at the 2017 Worlds, as well as several at the U20 and U18 levels.
A pair of young defencemen to keep an eye on are 21-year-old Sebastiano Soracreppa, just coming off an impressive rookie season in Switzerland’s second-tier league with HC Thurgau, and 22-year-old Peter Spornberger, who has played in Germany for years – the last two in the DEL2 with EHC Freiburg.
Otherwise, they will try to hold the fort, hope and wait for reinforcements to arrive.
ForwardItaly’s current group of forwards has a bit more experience than the defence and also has a distinct Bolzano flavour, with seven out of 13 spots from that South Tyrol based ICEHL club.
Raphael Andergassen has played in two previous World Championships, while Angelo Miceli, Anthony Bardaro, Marco Rosa, IvanDeluca, Peter Hochkofler, Luca Frigo and Daniel Frank have all played in one. The veteran of that bunch is 39-year-old Marco Rosa, who after years in the AHL, Finnish Liiga and German DEL, joined Asiago in 2017 and has played there ever since.
This will be Stefano Giliati’s first World Championship, but the Montreal-born 33-year-old winger who has recently become a naturalized Italian citizen also brings a wealth of pro hockey experience to the team. Giliati spent 11 pro seasons in the AHL, Liiga, KHL, Swiss NL and DEL before rejoining HC Bolzano (where he previously played one season in 2011/12) two years ago.
Markus Gander, a veteran of three World Championships, is in the group of players along with Smith, Larkin, et al waiting for post-COVID clearance to join the team. Tommaso Traversa, Michele Marchetti and Matthias Mantinger have been ruled out.
CoachingHead coach Greg Ireland and assistant Riku-Petteri Lehtone are being held back in Italy and waiting to rejoin the team in Riga later. In the interim, the Italian bench is being manned by assistant coaches Giorgio De Bettin and Fabio Armani and goaltending coach Peter Andersson.
This is Ireland’s first season as coach of the Italian national team. The long-time ECHL, AHL and OHL coach has worked in Europe since 2015 for Adler Mannheim, HC Lugano and now HC Bolzano.