The Ice Dogs and Bears competed for the Battle of Sydney at the penultimate home game for the Bears 2014 season. With the Ice Dogs having the (Dun)wood(ie) over the Bears for the previous 3 battles and the Bears having a horrible 12-4 loss to the CBR Brave at their last start, how would this game go?
At an arena that was more sounding like the Ice Dogs home arena at Liverpool than the Sydney Ice Arena, it did not take long for the Sydney Ice Dogs to put the wood to the Sydney Bears. New Washington Capitals signing Nathan Walker made the trip across to the home of the Bears where he was presented with a special plaque and performed the ceremonial puck drop. He has been a popular figure recently (as expected), making several appearances before the biggest season of his career to date.
With the red carpet rolled back and the biggest Australian hockey export safely behind the netting, it was time to start the game. While the crowd was not as big as the last Battle of Sydney at the venue in June, the recent form of the Bears meant that some people decided to spend their money elsewhere. There was still a respectable crowd in attendance, however. Those who did make the effort to come from across Sydney would certainly be rewarded with some excellent goal scoring and catchy chants. One chant from the Ice Dogs pack was so catchy that I woke up the following day with the chant of “We love you Ice Dogs” stuck in my head.
The Ice Dogs fans certainly had a lot to love in the first period and by the end of 15 minutes of play, the Ice Dogs already had a commanding 4-0 lead. There was a hat trick already but not to one of the people you would think. Missing John Clewlow and Billy Cliff due to suspension, the hat trick did not go to powerhouse forwards Simon Barg, captain Robert Malloy or David Dunwoodie. With only 1 goal to his name for the season to date due to playing in defence, Shane Southwood found himself playing forward in the first line and with goals at 11.41, 4.22 (PP) and 0.17. Shane Southwoodie (as I was now calling him) had tripled his season’s tally in one period. Barg and Dunwoodie were also up to 3 assists each for the period and were keeping busy. Try as they might, the Bears had no answers for their fans. Shots at goal in the first period favoured the Ice Dogs 17-11. Their second goal was a short handed goal to Paul Baranzelli while Southwood picked up the Ice Dogs’ only power play goal of the match 6 minutes later.
With the possibility of being a replay of the CBR Brave game from the previous week, the Bears stood up to be counted in the second period. With Daniel Palmkvist again on merchandise duty (it’s probably not a good idea to put an injured import into the Bear suit!), Luke Read pulled off some marvelous saves in front of a hungry Dogs pack. You could be forgiven for being confused though as Read’s pads looked very similar in colour to the Ice Dogs jerseys. As he explained later, the pads in question were the ones he has used with his East Coast Super League team, the Rebels, who share the colours and major sponsor with the Ice Dogs. Sometimes goal tenders can be a little superstitious!
At the other end of the ice, Tim Noting was also working hard and the score remained 4-0 in favour of Noting and the Ice Dogs at the end of the second period. While he did not have as much work to do compared to Read, he still saved all of his 30 shots during the game that he faced which is an achievement in itself. He kept a cool head under limited pressure as many of the Bears’ shots came from afar. A lot of the goals against Noting have come from people creating traffic near the crease however this did not really happen until very late in the game. At the end of the day, the best you can do as a goal tender is not to concede any goals and that’s exactly what Tim Noting did.
The 3rd period was almost a carbon copy of the first period. It was the Dave and Shane Show as David Dunwoodie opened the scoring with 2 quick goals. Towards the end of the game, the newly nicknamed Shane Southwoodie picked up another double to extend the lead to 8-0. Try as they might, the Bears huffed and they puffed but they could not blow Noting’s house down as he ended up with his second shut out for the year. There were some close calls though – Spencer Austin found the ironwork at least twice however Noting’s net stayed clean even if the posts were not. Shots at goal favoured the Ice Dogs 13-8 in the second period and 14-11 in the last.
There were some lighter moments though with good natured banter in the crowd and a broken stick of Ben DiMarco which in smaller venues might have hit the roof. When the chips are down for the fans, sometimes there needs to be some funny moments to break the at times sullen mood. A broken stick there, a slide along the ice, a funny comment or two brought some laughter. Despite the lop sided scoreline, a genuine hockey fan can appreciate a good game, even if the score is not in your favour. What the game lacked in closeness was more than sufficient in the goal scoring department.
The first line of the Ice Dogs attack is hard to defend against. If a team concentrates on one player, there’s at least 2 more players who are equally potent on that line. In the end, a delighted Southwoodie was only one goal behind last week’s super total of 6 by CBR Brave forward Stephen Blunden. Despite spending most of the season down in defence, it is not clear if he has a future up front. While one game does not equal a season and the Ice Dogs have much tougher opponents to come – particularly if they make the finals – there could be a case for giving the 5 goal scorer a chance up front. Obviously John Clewlow would slot back into his spot when he returns from suspension but could Southwoodie play forward in the second line? While Simon Barg did not score a goal, he was a very able assistant to Southwoodie and Dunwoodie, bagging 7 assists for the game. Dunwoodie picked up 4 assists to go with his 2 goals and captain Robert Malloy scored 3 assists. The Ice Dogs are playing as a team and these figures illustrate this perfectly.
As the happy Ice Dogs fans left the happy hunting ground that has become Sydney Ice Arena, the Bears were left to ponder another big scoreline against a quality team. Heavily depleted due to injury, there is only so much that a short staffed Bears lineup with a hot ticket to Off Season Island could do. The scoreless second period masked to some extent how dominant the Ice Dogs were. As with last week’s game against the Brave, any of the top teams would have lit the Bears up. There were very few penalty minutes distributed by the men in stripes and thankfully, no brawl to end the game. The game was played and supported in a good spirit. Needless to say, the Ice Dogs fans had a lot more to cheer about than the Bears fans.
The next day, the Ice Dogs would return to Liverpool to face the Perth Thunder while fellow Hewitt Sports writer Sean Lopez & I headed north to Newcastle to see the Bears play the North Stars. The Newcastle North Stars‘ season was hanging by a thread and a visit by the Bears is just what the Novocastrians needed with a 6-2 victory by the home team.
Meanwhile the Bears play CBR Brave on August 23 for the final game of their season. The off-season could not come soon enough for them – unfortunately a good start to the season is not good enough if the end of the season is bad. 9 losses in a row and a terrible latter half of the season is heartbreaking for Bears fans.
The Ice Dogs, however, are well in contention for the finals. The Ice Dogs have a road trip to Perth and a date with the Melbourne Mustangs in Liverpool to end their regular season. If they continue this sort of form, they may successfully defend their 2013 Goodall Cup victory. There is potentially a lot to look forward to in the last couple of weeks of the regular season. With the AIHL so close this year, it will be important for the Ice Dogs to remain healthy and remain out of the penalty box. They can not afford to have key players suspended for important games.
Sydney Ice Dogs 8 defeated Sydney Bears 0 at Sydney Ice Arena
- Ice Dogs: Shane Southwood 5, David Dunwoodie 2, Paul Baranzelli
- Bears: Nil
- Ice Dogs: Simon Barg 7, David Dunwoodie 4, Robert Malloy 3, Paddy Ward, Shane Southwood
- Bears: Nil