AIHL Grand Final – The Grand Battle Of Melbourne

Saturday’s AIHL Semi Finals saw the Melbourne Mustangs and Melbourne Ice were ready to face off at the Icehouse for the 2014 Grand Final. Who would win the 5th Melbourne Derby of the Year? Would it be the multiple championship winning Ice or the debut finalists Mustangs?

All the blood, sweat and tears comes down to one 50 minute period at the Medibank Icehouse. Somewhat fittingly, 1 v 2 in the regular season would line up. Playing in their first final series and their first grand final, the MOAT: Melbourne Mustangs knew that they had a tough battle against the Sydney Ice Dogs the previous day. Would this game mean that the Stangs had run out of fuel? Or was it a case of a great preparation? Meanwhile, the Melbourne Ice had an easier win the previous day against the CBR Brave. One could not discount a team scoring 6 goals the previous day, however. The Ice have been there many times before and knew what they had to do. After their respective games the previous day, both coaches reported that there were no major injury concerns and no real need to tweak their preparations and tactics.

First Period

Both teams started hard but some of the Mustangs passes were not finding their marks early. Carrying on from the previous day, Viktor Gibbs Sjodin scored the first and only goal of the period midway through. Up 1-0 at the end of the first period, the Mustangs would have known that the Ice could come back. Towards the end of the period, both teams received a Too Many Men minor penalty.

Second Period

The second period was all Mustangs. Pat O’Kane received a delay of game minor early in the period. Little did he know at the time that he would spend 10 minutes in real time in the penalty box alone because of an injury to referee Rick West. A puck hit West in the head and opened him up. A lengthy delay created an unofficial time out as the injured zebra was treated and left the ice. ATC Productions commentator Stephen White might have received a call to suit up as happened in a previous game at the Icehouse. No need for that on this occasion, though. With the ice cleaned, Jeff Scott replaced Rick West. It was reported later that a few stitches later, Rick was as good as new. As both teams explained at the end of the game, the stoppage was as a result of something that can occur in hockey and not a major distraction.

10628839_846341188711953_2347906141240003970_o Meanwhile, Pat O’Kane was spending some quality alone time in the penalty box. There was no early release for good behaviour and as zebra West was being treated, O’Kane could not join his team on the bench despite having only 8 seconds remaining in the box. In one of the feelgood moments of the game, O’Kane took the chance to say hello to his mum via the ATC Productions live stream. While not to the scale of the Del Basso celebration the previous weekend, there was some overseas coverage of his “Hello Mum, I’m on TV” moment. It was clearly the longest 8 seconds of O’Kane’s career. The only thing that coach Vigon was worried about from the resumption of play was that the face off was in the Mustangs defensive end. As hindsight would show, he had nothing to worry about.

Straight from the resumption of play, the clock counted down and 8 seconds later, O’Kane was out of the box. Moments later,  Jamie Bourke made the score 2-0. Soon thereafter, Viktor Gibbs Sjodin had his second goal of the night. Towards the end of the second period, Pat O’Kane scored to make the score 4-0 Mustangs at the end of the period. After the game, Mustangs coach Brad Vigon explained that they had to keep doing what they were doing and not to go into their shells in the third period. In the neighbouring dressing room, the message to the Ice was simple – do not give up.

Compared to the previous game, the Ice chants of “JPM” were few and far between. As the game continued, the Ice fans chants turned more desparate and more pleading in nature towards the end. In the other net, Fraser Carson was staring down the barrel of a grand final shut out. Meanwhile, the Mustangs fans were chanting harder as the scoreline increased. Two players that were getting attention from both sides of the arena were Joey and Vinnie Hughes. After winning championships with the Melbourne Ice, the brothers went across to the Mustangs. Soon after the injury to referee West, Joey Hughes was winded after colliding with an open bench door. However as coach Vigon commented later, there were no concerns with Hughes as he was a tough hockey player. He later returned to the ice with seemingly no ill effects.

Third Period

Opening the third period, Viktor Gibbs Sjodin picked up his hat trick to make the score 5-0. After some hats were removed from the ice, the Ice stepped up with a goal to captain LliamWebster. The goal celebration meant that Carson would not get his shut out but a Goodall Cup would be better than any shut out.The celebrations were subdued from the Ice players. If this was the come from behind win was to start, it would need to come now. But it did not come. A goal to Andrew Belic with 2.45 remaining sealed the win for the Mustangs and put a massive exclamation mark on their season. Soon enough, the final buzzer sounded and it was time for the Mustangs to CELEBRATE!!!!!!

Surprisingly, neither teams converted their power plays. The Mustangs had 2 power plays while the Ice had many more – 7 in total. The Mustangs narrowly won the shots at goals statistics in the first & third periods however the total shots were 30-30 at the end of the game. 1 goal away from a shut out, Fraser Carson saved 29/30 for the champions while Jaden Pine-Murphy saved 24/30.

After the game, the Ice could only lament missed opportunities but praised their cross-town opponents. Coach Brent Laver thought that the Mustangs never let the Ice settle into the game. One thing was clear from both coaches – the Mustangs controlled the game from the outset and decided how it was going to be played. The Mustangs had a game plan and stuck with it – not letting the Ice into the game.

Asked about the future, both coaches were looking on the bright side. Mustangs coach Vigon expressed his desire to keep an Australian goaltender in front of the pipes, wondering out loud how Australian goaltenders can develop if they are not playing in the best competition in the nation. Meanwhile, Ice coach Laver was looking towards some of the younger members of the squad such as the Wong brothers, Mitch Humphries and Austin McKenzie to keep developing for the Ice. When asked about when they thought they could watch the match again, naturally the answers were very different. The winning coach thought that the same night was a good night to watch the game again if that was possible (it wasn’t). Meanwhile the losing coach was more than happy to watch the previous derby again, joking that he would fall asleep during that game and wake up imagining that his team were the premiers.

Asked about if victory was any sweeter because of defeating their cross-town rivals, Mustangs captain Sean Jones summarised the situation well. Both he and coach Vigon recognised that several players and team management had previous lives with the Ice but had come across to the Mustangs. While most of the media discussion post-match focused on the Hughes brothers, they were reminded that several people involved had switched camps, not just Joey and Vinnie.

Across the league, this victory by the Mustangs sees a new chapter written in the 14 year history of the AIHL. Next season, they will be the defending premiers and the benchmark for the other 7 teams in the competition. Training would no doubt start again soon and many players play in summer leagues or other competitions. For the moment at least, it was time to #believeorange or more to the point, #celebrateorange.

Melbourne Mustangs 6 defeated Melbourne Ice 1 at Medibank Icehouse, Melbourne.

Goals:

  • Melbourne Mustangs: Viktor Gibbs Sjodin 3, Jamie Bourke, Pat O’Kane, Andrew Belic
  • Melbourne Ice: Lliam Webster

Assists:

  • Melbourne Mustangs: Jamie Bourke 3, Vinnie Hughes, Joey Hughes, Matt Stringer, Jack Wolgemuth, Viktor Gibbs Sjodin, Pat O’Kane
  • Melbourne Ice: Tommy Powell, Jason Baclig
Eric Brook

Eric Brook

Sydney Writer
Eric was introduced to hockey in early 2014 after being invited to a Portland Winterhawks game in the WHL. After his debut season as a spectator in the AIHL, Eric is now a part of the Sydney Bears organisation.
Eric Brook

@erkpod

Take the number 69 because it's hilarious even if you're a rookie. @hbrcityhockey creator & @grassroots_au writer amongst other things.
@Schpantzy I’m sure you wouldn’t say know if she tapped you on the shoulder & offered herself to you… 😛 - 21 mins ago
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