Newcastle ice hockey stars head to Bulgaria to represent Australia

TWO Newcastle youths are in the Czech Republic this week for an ice hockey training camp before they head to Bulgaria to play for Australia.

Defence man Josh Hansen, 17, and forward Hayden Sheard, 18, have put school and work aside to play for the Australian under-18 squad in Bulgaria next week against New Zealand, Israel, China and Mexico.

Hansen and Sheard will lead Australia's defensive and offensive charge when they play in the International Ice Hockey Federation's under-18 division three group A world championship tournament.

Australian coach Stephen Lindsay said the Newcastle players would be important assets on the ice during the five games it plays in Bulgaria from Monday, March 24.

"Hayden will be taking control of the special [offensive] teams while Josh will be taking charge of defence," Lindsay said.

Before the squad flew out on Friday Hansen and Sheard said they were excited for what laid ahead.

This would be the second year each represented Australia for ice hockey.

"Last year, two weeks before we flew out, I got a call from Steve [Lindsay] saying someone had pulled out from the team," Hansen said.

"I nearly quit.

"I was kind of over it - not having a break and playing for a couple of years in a row."

The Lambton High School student said that phone call was a turning point for him, with the 17-year-old almost giving up ice hockey, which he has played for about nine years.

Sheard, who hopes for a spot in the Australian Ice Hockey League this year, has also played ice hockey for about nine years, side-by-side with Hansen.

A week before the pair flew out to the Czech Republic they were part of the Sydney Sabres, which won the Australian Junior Ice Hockey League's 2013-14 season.

Both hope to return home to Australia from the world championship tournament with a gold medal.

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