International Ice Hockey Federation

A new force in the making

A new force in the making

The hunted become hunters

Published 16.04.2015 21:11 GMT+2 | Author Joeri Loonen
A new force in the making
Croatia is shooting for gold in Eindhoven. Photo: Ruta Mikalkeviciute
The past few decades Croatia was an elevator team but those days are over.

Too strong for Divsion 2 and too weak for Division 1. That summed up Croatia's performances in the last few decades. But that era has come to and end with the uprise of Medvescak Zagreb as of 2009. That year the team made the switch to the Austrian League EBEL and was ran more professionally. The most successful and popular team of Croatia then made another leap forward by joining the Russian based KHL in 2013.

In the slipstream of Medvescak, the Croatian national team benefited. Not only did the best Croatian born players improve thanks to facing stronger opposition but also the pool of players to select from increased tremendously. Many players from the Croatian diaspora in hockey countries in Europe and North America joined the club, and some of them have gained citizenship and became eligible to wear the Croatian jersey.

It has paid immediate dividens for the Croats who promoted do the Division1 Group A in 2013 and claimed instant success with a second place and silver medal last year in Vilnius.

This year the team of head coach Donald McLean looks to be even stronger on paper with the eligibility of three new players with impressive resumes in North America.

Goaltender Mark Dekanich did not manage to breakthrough in the NHL but has been a top goalie in the AHL and was phenomenal in his first KHL season. The towering netminder will provide a a tandem with team mate Mate Tomljenović who was one of the top goalies in last year’s World Championships.

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Offensively the team got strengthened by the eligiblity of Mike Glumac and Andrew Murray who both boast impressive stats throughouth their careers in North America. With 221-NHL games on his resume, Murray will be a rare presence at this level as not many players of such stature have been playing in Eindhoven.

The trio joins fellow dual-citizens Alan Letang (voted best defenceman of last year’s tournament), Kenny MacAuley, Andy Sertich, Geoff Waugh, Ryan Kinasewich, Adam Naglich and Nathan Perkovich who are all selected on the team’s pre-tournament entry list and have become eligible for Croatia in recent years.

The influx of avaialable talent has transformed Croatia from being a bottom feeding team to a top candidate for the gold medal in just a few years. The ambitions and therefore clear. No longer is the team satisfied with a mid table position, the goals are set and promotion and Olympic qualification are crystal clear.

Contrary to the good news that McLean received he also learned that Borna Rendulic will be unable to play for Croatia. The first ever Croation born and raised player to reach the NHL (Colorado Avalanche) has not recovered in time from a broken foot and will have to follow the tournament from the sidelines. Last year, the forward was an offensive weapon for Croatia registering two goals and as many assists in five games.

Fully in line with their new status, Croatia found a high calibre sparring partner en route to the tournament start in Eindhoven. Olympic participant Slovenia, ranked 14th on the IIHF World Ranking, was too strong in Zagreb as they defeated Croatia 5-2 but gave coach McLean valuable insight in areas where his squad needs to work on in order to be successful.

Success is something McLean has had during his tenure as national team head coach. He has medalled in his previous two world championships and a medal hat trick is looming.

The once hunted Croatian team has reversed the roles and is now on the hunt themselves.


Five year results and standings window 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
KOR   2-5        
GBR   1-4       4-0
NED           4-0
LTU 2-7         3-2
EST       2-3    
Final Result 5 6 2 3 1 2
Level Div. 1 Div. 1 Div. 2 Div. 2A Div. 2A Div.1B
World Ranking 26 26 27 30 29 28

Team entry long list:

Goalies: Mark Dekanich, Michael Ouzas, Vilim Rosandic, Mate Tomljenovic, Andrej Vasiljevic

Defencemen: Igor Jacmenak, Bruno Kegalj, Alan Letang, Marko Ljubic, Kenny MacAuley, Luka Markovic, Sasa Martinovic, Andy Sertich, Ivan Sijan, Borna Silovic, Roman Skrapec, Marko Tadic, Geoff Waugh

Forwards: Mislav Blagus, Ivan Brencun, Michael Glumac, Ivan Jankovic, Luka Jarcov, Dominik Kanaet, Ryan Kinasewich, Dario Kostovic, Luka Mikulic, Matija Milicic, Tadija Miric, Andew Murray, Adam Naglich, Mario Novak, Nathan Perkovich, Borna Rendulic, Marko Sakic, Luka Vukoja


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