Quite literally since 2005 Austria has been up and down. As host of the 2005 World Championships, Austria finished 16th and was relegated to Division I. After winning Group B of Division I in 2006, they were once again among the top sixteen at the 2007 World Championships in Moscow where they finished 15th and once again relegated. Last year Austria once again pulled themselves up from Division I and this time around are hoping to stay up.
Bernd Brückler and Jürgen Penker will vie for time in goal. Brückler has the advantage having more World Championship experience under his belt. He has represented Austria three times in top division play and once in Division I. Brückler has spent the last four years in the Finnish league with the Espoo Blues. Prior to that he moved across North America where he played for the University of Wisconsin and various minor league teams. Penker moved from the Danish League to the Swedish Elitserien this year with Rögle BK where he played in 30 games.
The defence must be solid if there is a chance for Austria to compete. But this will be a tough task as skill forwards can give them trouble. Gerhard Unterluggauer and Andre Lakos have been with the national team since 1999. Lakos has seen it all. This season, he signed with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL. Philippe Lakos, a stay-at-home defender for the Vienna Capitals, has been a part of this team since 2003. Darcy Werenka will be asked to provide some punch at the blueline. In his six years with the Vienna Capitals, Werenka has scored 81 goals. Werenka was a New York Rangers draft choice in 1991.
Thomas Vanek will play for Austria. Vanek is without question the best player produced from Austria. The Buffalo Sabres forward is coming off the second 40 goal season in his brief NHL career. Vanek will be counted upon to score for Austria, as he is their most natural sniper. Vanek will also help on the power play. This season 20 of his 40 goals came with the man advantage. Oliver Setzinger was a critical player at the 2008 World Championships Division I. In five games he scored three goals and 11 points in helping Austria move to the top division for this year. Roland Kaspitz has represented the national team since 2002. Thomas Koch is coming off the best season of his career. Koch scored 28 goals and 77 points for Red Bull Salzburg. Christoph Harand, who has not been with the national team since 2005, is returning to add depth, along with some new faces. Michael Raffl makes his debut. The 20-year-old Raffl was given named the best forward of the 2008 World U20 Championship Division I as he scored five goals for Team Austria. Overall, the success of Austria in scoring will remain with its best player - Vanek - and help decide their competitiveness early on.
Lars Bergström coached the Austrian’s back up into the top division. Bergström was the assistant coach in 2004 and 2005 and named head coach in 2007. Bergström has a record of success as a team coach. He led Lulea to gold in 1996 and won two Austrian championships in 2000 and 2001. Bergström will be assisted by Johan Stromvall and Markus Kerschbaumer.
Austria will be battling to stay alive again. While having Vanek should help, they are facing an uphill battle once again to be competitive at the elite level of international ice hockey.