With one half of the Grand Final match-up known, the Melbourne Mustangs had to wait to see who their opponents would be. On one side of the ice, there was the multiple championship winning Melbourne Ice. On the other end, the CBR Brave were representing Canberra for the first time in a finals series in their debut season.
Following the Mustangs/Ice Dogs semi final, expectations for the next game between the Melbourne Ice & CBR Brave were high at the Medibank Icehouse. Last week, the Brave had a narrow win against the Sydney Bears while the Ice were defeated twice (once in shootout, once in regulation) by the Perth Thunder. The Melbourne Ice are multiple Goodall Cup champions while the Brave are the most successful ice hockey team in Canberra’s history. Potentially, there was 50 minutes between the Goodall Cup between 2 teams that never been in a semi final before this weekend. Someone however had forgotten to give the script to the Ice while the Brave had seemingly forgotten to read the same script.
All week, there had been an injury cloud over star forward Mathieu Ouellette. He was on the ice but not as potent as at other times during the season. Also not as potent as usual was goal tender Petri Pitkanen who was greatly suffering from the flu. The Ice dominated while the Brave were a different Brave team to the that had captured the imagination of the AIHL community in their debut season. The Icehouse certainly had a lot of Brave yellow in the crowd. Naturally, there was a lot of Ice blue to go along with the Ice Dogs teal and Mustangs orange.
The Ice faithful had a lot to cheer about. Jaden Pine-Muprhy was like a brickwall in front of the South Pole faithful with a lot of chants of “JPM” echoing throughout the arena. The chant of “Free Jeff Smith” was electric around the stadium in the first period after he was sent to the penalty box for a holding the stick penalty. The Ice scored 2 quick fire goals to Tommy Powell and Todd Graham to lead 2-0 at the first intermission. Graham’s goal ended up to be the first of 4 power play goals of the game as the Brave saw their game unravel in front of them. A goal to the Brave via Stephen Blunden 5 minutes into the second period gave their fans some hope but at 3-1, that is the closest that the Brave came.
Jeff Smith was freed from the penalty box and later struck back with a power play goal of his own in the second period for the 4th Ice goal of the game. Good Canberra still could have come back from 4-1 however not the team on the ice now. Frustration increased as the game went on including a 10 minute misconduct penalty to import Anton Kokkonen in the third period. The Ice kept their foot on the go pedal in the third period and scored 2 late power play goals by Tim Johannson and Tommy Powell. During the post-game media conference, assistant captain Powell was somewhat stunned to find that he had been credited with a hat trick of goals. “I got 2 (goals) 2 (assists). I don’t know where the hat trick came from.”
Brave captain Mark Rummkainen was calmly selecting his words carefully after the match. He explained that he was very happy with the season but was not merely happy to make the finals and then lose. He is most happy with the development with the younger local players throughout the year. During the year, they had developed into young men in an adult competition which he was pleased about. He was clearly frustrated with the game, including with how he played personally. He explained that he would need a couple of days to think about what had actually happened but the future was bright in 2015 for the Brave.
Much like his Mustangs counterpart earlier, Ice coach Brent Laver was looking forward to tomorrow’s match with a short turnaround. Talk of tactics against the Mustangs was dismissed after Laver explained that it is easy to see how both teams play and train. He had noted that the Mustangs had changed some lines, however. Captain Lliam Wesbter and assistant captain Tommy Powell shared the positive mood inside the Ice dressing room while also complementing their opponents for all they had achieved during the season. While the mood in the Brave dressing room was naturally not as high, the Ice were happy with the win and looking forward to playing the Mustangs the following day. Also free of injury concerns, a short turnaround meant a short preparation with not a lot of tweaking needed.
The Brave converted none of their power plays while the Ice converted 4 out of 5 of their power plays. As could be expected with a 6-1 scoreline, the Ice outshot the Brave 40-23. Jaden Pine Murphy saved 22 of 23 shots for the Ice while Petri Pitkanen had a busier day, saving 34 out 40. Simply, the Ice were on and the Brave were not. It was a disappointing end to the Brave’s season and their season’s montage did not deserve to end like this. While one preferred grand final – Mustangs v Brave – was not happening, the Melbourne Derby scenario was one sleep away.
Melbourne Ice 6 defeated CBR Brave 1 at Medibank Icehouse, Melbourne
- Melbourne Ice: Tommy Powell 2, Todd Graham, Jeff Smith, Tim Johansson, Matt Armstrong
- CBR Brave: Stephen Blunden
- Melbourne Ice: Jeremy Brown 3, Tommy Powell 2, Lliam Webster, Sean Hamilton, Tim Johansson, Mitch Humphries
- CBR Brave: Anton Kokkonen
Photo: Tania Chalmers Photography