Italy wants to stay up
by Andrew Podnieks|14 MAY 2022
The Italian players celebrate after beating Austria in 2019 to stay in the top division.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
The golden age of Italian hockey was the period 1992-2002 when the team played in the top pool every year. Since then, the Azzurri have been an elevator team, up one year, down the next. But due to Covid and some fortuitous wins, Italy is playing in the top pool for the third straight tournament and hopes to win those crucial games against Kazakhstan and France to return next year for a fourth straight Worlds.


Justin Fazio was the number-one man a year ago, playing in six games and compiling a 5.59 GAA. His backup then was Davide Fadani. Just 21 years old, he played for Lugano this past season, the organization he has been with since 2015. The third goalie will be Andreas Bernard, Fazio’s teammate with the Foxes in the Italian league.


There is good and bad news for the Italians. To the good, there are only two rookies on the blue line. To the bad, the returnees didn’t contribute even one goal to the offense while as a team they surrendered 41 goals in seven games, far more than any of the 16 teams. Alex Trivellato is the only defender to have been with the team for all three WMs in this recent success (2019, 2021) as well as the 2014 Worlds. The 29-year-old also comes from Bolzano’s ICEHL team, which also happens to be his hometown. Daniel Glira played in 2017 and 2021, as did Enrico Miglioranzi. Dylan Di Perna, another Canada-born defender, will be making his debut with Italy. The 26-year-old played junior hockey for Kitchener in the OHL, and then moved to university, with St. Mary’s before signing with Bolzano and then Ritten. The other new arrival is Cameron Ginnetti (Asiago). The 23-year-old from British Columbia has played with Asiago since 2019 and has provided solid offence. Coach Ireland is hoping both are able to bring some production to the back end with the Azzurri.


Italy’s disappointing winless tournament last year in Riga can be highlighted by one simple stat—eleven goals in seven games. Their scoring by game went like this: 4-1-0-0-3-1-2. When they scored 4, Germany scored 9. When they had 3, Kazakhstan had 11. Of the players who accounted for those 11 goals, only three are back. Daniel Frank (last year’s captain), Luca Frigo, and Alex Petan all had two goals each to lead the team. So first off, they’re going to have to score more, but they’re going to need help.

Coach Ireland has a roster selected mostly from the domestic clubs and full of new faces, hoping his team can win a game, stay up, and get some valuable experience for a host of players who haven’t seen the top level before. The elder statesman is Marco Insam, who also plays with Bolzano. The 32-year-old has been in four previous Worlds at the top level and many others at the lower levels going back to 2005. Tommaso Traversa plays in the British League with Sheffield and previously played in the 2017 and 2019 WM. Ivan Deluca played in 2019 and last year.

Newcomers to watch out for include Simon Berger. The 22-year-old has played with Pustertal for several seasons. His teammate at Pustertal, Dante Hannoun, is Canadian by birth and development but he has played in Italy long enough to qualify for the Azzurri. Matthias Mantinger has played in Italy for nearly a decade and is finally getting a chance at a major competition. And then there’s the well-travelled American, Brandon McNally, who has played in several European leagues before landing in Italy in 2018. This is his first shot wearing any international togs. In all, though, the key will be to put the puck in the net. Yes, the defence has to pull its weight, but the forwards need to score, plain and simple.


Greg Ireland is another in a long name of Canadians who have led the Italian national team, from Bill Cupolo in 1959 to Dave Chambers, Bryan Lefley, and Pat Cortina among others. Ireland the man has never coached Ireland the country, but he has coached in Germany, Switzerland, and now Italy among his several European postings. This will be his first turn as head coach of the Azzurri.

Projected Results

With the promotion of France replacing ROC in Group A, Italy has two chances to remain in the top pool for next year, needing to beat either the French or Kazakhs to stay out of last place and avoid relegation. It might sound like a modest ambition, but it is an important one all the same. And this is what happened on the final day of the 2019 Worlds. Previously winless, Italy defeated Austria in a shootout, 4-3, staying up and sending the Austrians down. They scored once in six games and four times against Austria. Can they be so fortuitous this year? If so, they’ll need some timely scoring again.