Caribou CBR Brave coach Stuart Philps believes the current team is the closest unit he has ever coached.
Philps says the players do everything together away from the ice. It’s resulted in an extremely close bond among the group, which includes four imports.
“It’s all about the locker room, it’s how the guys interact,” Philps says. “How the imports interact with the rest of the team, it’s worked well and it’s showing.”
In many respects, that connection has been one of the reasons behind the team’s success in this season’s Australian Ice Hockey League. The Brave lead their conference with two games to go.
This Saturday’s home game against the Central Coast followed by an away game in Newcastle next Sunday will finish the regular season.
The Brave won the Goodall Cup last season in a six-team competition. Four more teams in this year’s title race makes the quest for back-to-back titles that much harder.
“It’s always hard to win these titles. To be able to win in an expanded league would be incredible,” Philps says.
Leading the charge for the Brave is American import Austin Albrecht, who scored two goals in the 6-2 victory over the Adelaide Adrenaline. It followed three goals the previous night in a 13-3 victory over Adelaide in the first game of a double header.
Albrecht has played 18 of the 24 games this season after joining the team late.
Since then, his impact has been telling.
“He was the fastest to reach 50 points [which includes goals and assists earned] in Brave history,” Philps says of Albrecht. “He is the most competitive player I have ever coached.”
An added bonus for the Brave this season has been the age of the imports.
“Normally we have recruited players in their late 20s, early 30s,” Philps says. “But this season our imports have been younger, in their mid 20s and at the peak of their careers.
“They are super competitive. They are vying for contracts overseas. It’s a different dynamic. Our imports have been great.”
But regardless of age, Philps has been able to establish a one-team mentality with an emphasis on enjoying being around each other.
This has translated to success in the season so far.
The Caribou CBR Brave take on the Central Coast Rhinos on Saturday, August 12 at 5:00 pm at the Brave Cave. For tickets, head to the Caribou CBR Brave website.