James Downie set to play for Sydney Bears in Australian Ice Hockey League after World Championship domination

World beater: Australian under-18s goalkeeper James Downie looks forward to playing Great Britain at next year's world championships. His dad Colin was a former Great Britain junior representative. Picture: Andrew McMurtry

World beater: Australian under-18s goalkeeper James Downie looks forward to playing Great Britain at next year's world championships. His dad Colin was a former Great Britain junior representative. Picture: Andrew McMurtry

Goalkeeper James Downie has the world at his feet after a stunning performance for the Australian under-18s team.

James, 16, won the best goalkeeper award at the International Ice Hockey Federation under-18s division 2 group B World Championships in Serbia.

“It is an honour to play for your country, let alone win,” he said. 

“I still get excited about that last game and winning that gold medal. It was just an awesome experience all round.”

James saved 95 of 102 shots (93.14 percent) during the tournament and conceded just 1.40 goals per game. 

Australia gained promotion to the division 2 group A World Championships for next year, the second straight year the team has been promoted.

It’s a feat rarely seen in world championship ice hockey and will pit Australia against Estonia, Lituania, Korea, Italy and Great Britain.

With another year ahead of him in the national under-18s team, English-born James looks forward to locking horns with his birth country. He moved to Australia when he was eight.

“It’ll be a proud moment just putting that green-and-gold jersey on playing against my old country I used to live in,” James said. 

Based in The Ponds when in Australia, the teenager spends most of the year in Canada, where he attends school and plays for the Ontario Hockey Academy.

Back in Australia for what amounts to his off-season, James will play for the Sydney Bears in the Australian Ice Hockey League, his third season in the competition, where he will back-up for Australian national senior mens goalkeeper Anthony Kimlin. 

He said the level of ice hockey in Australia is high, comparing it to the junior level of Canadian hockey.

“It’s more rough and the players are smarter at men’s level because they’ve had more experience,” he said. 

“At under-18s, some players have more skill but men’s level is definitely harder to play at, smarter players, harder shots, faster play.”

Australian ice hockey players have been making international waves recently.

Currently, Australian star Nathan Walker is playing in the American Hockey League, the second tier of ice hockey under the National Hockey League.

It’s a path James hopes to follow.

“NHL, AHL, I want to play professional mainly,” he said. 

“Such a small percentage make it to the NHL but anything is possible I guess. 

“I just have to train hard and keep a good work ethic. I look up to Stormy (Walker) and see what he’s done.”

The AIHL season starts on Saturday with the Sydney Bears against the Sydney Ice Dogs at Macquarie Ice Rink.

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