It’s only their second season in the Australian Ice Hockey League, but already the Perth Thunder are being singled out as one of the teams to beat in 2013.
The Thunder kick off their campaign with a double-header against reigning champions Melbourne Ice at Malaga’s Perth Ice Arena on Saturday night, and it is those two teams who many expect to be there at the pointy end of the season.
AIHL commissioners Alex Lata and Robert Bannerman have both tipped big things from the second-year side after narrowly missing the play-offs in their inaugural year, with Lata already tipping them to reach the grand final on the back of a strong home-rink advantage.
The Thunder already boast one of the strongest supporter bases in the league, drawing an average home crowd of more than 600 and signing up more than 300 members.
With star import and last season’s MVP Ken Rolph returning for a second season, co-owner and senior player Ric Del Basso says the Thunder know what’s coming and are prepared for the challenge.
“It’s very unpredictable, but you always go in with a positive attitude and this year I think we’re more prepared and we know what to expect, which is a good thing,” he said.
“Pre-season went well, a lot of the guys look a lot fitter than last year and they’re probably more mentally ready.
“We’re expecting obviously better than last year, inaugural year is a hard year, we’re expecting better with a better team.”
Aside from the Thunder, this season also represents a significant benchmark for the AIHL, with a 60-minute game to be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports every week.