The Adrenaline are putting their trust in a pair of young South Aussie defensemen to help improve on back-to-back last place finishes.
Zach Boyle and Jordan Geyer, aged 21 and 20 respectively, will be relied on to take the next steps in their games.
Boyle, who already has 92 AIHL games under his belt, hopes to become a top-calibre local AIHL defensemen. He says he hopes 2018 is the year he makes that leap.
He already has an impressive resume that boasts a selection to the Australian National Team in 2017 for an exhibition series vs. New Zealand and an appearance in the AIHL Grand Final in 2016 with Canberra.
He's also coming off his first full season logging significant minutes. Boyle registered 10 points in 28 games and was one of only three Adrenaline players to play in every game last season.
While there is room for improvement, there are a lot of promising signs for the young player. He can move the puck well, he has great vision and is an excellent skater. He is still moulding into a defensemen after making the switch from being a forward at just 17 years old.
Most of all, Boyle brings more experience than some of his youthful counter parts. He says he's looking forward to leading a core of talented young Australians.
"We're going to be together for a long time," says Boyle. "This year we can really implement our foundation and work on what we want to do not just this season but over the future years. We are going to be a growing team."
Jordan Geyer will join Boyle as one of the youngsters on the blue line. Geyer, aged 20, got his first real taste of AIHL action last season when he worked his way from the development squad to a regular player by the end of the year.
He played in 10 games in 2017 after being thrust into action on the road vs. the Sydney Ice Dogs in a 2-0 win. Geyer stepped up big time in that victory and helped the Adrenaline earn their only shutout of the season.
"That was a big game for Jordy," says head coach Sami Mantere. "We had injuries and a suspension and only four defence available to play. I told him this is his opportunity. Give me a reason to play you again. He did and there were very encouraging signs."
"I think that was our best game defensively of the season," he says.
Of course, there is lots to work on. This will be Jordan's first season where he will be consistently relied upon.
"It will be interesting that's for sure," says Geyer. "It will be about working through some of the growing pains but doing that together."
Geyer says the speed can be an advantage.
"We will bring some fresh legs. I think we can all be a bit quicker," he says.
"It's all about learning the game, making mistakes and trying to be supportive of each other," said Geyer in an interview late last season. "Players like [2017 import defensemen] Casey Babineau have been really helpful to learn from. They help slow the game down and offer some positive support."
Geyer is already showing signs of improvement. In 2016/17 he was a key part of the Adelaide Generals squad that won the Australian Junior Ice Hockey League championships.
This year he's one of the leaders on the first-place Generals and is hoping to go back to back. He has five goals in five games.
Geyer says the Adrenaline and their group of young players just need to remain patient and work hard as they start to gel. Eventually the wins will come.
"I went from hardly playing at all to getting regular shifts in a space of a season. I hope I can just keep working hard, be the best I can and improve as a player," said Geyer in a 2017 radio interview.
Boyle is trying to stay positive and keep the good vibes going. He says he's excited about the prospect of a few younger players getting more opportunities.
"It's a good vibe out there. Practices have been fairly intense," he says. "We are working at being good on both ends of the rinks, our defence core and limiting shots against."
The 2018 AIHL season starts April 21 when the Adrenaline travel to Melbourne to play the Mustangs and Ice. Memberships can be bought at http://bit.ly/2nxrC2a