Melbourne Ice has confirmed its position atop the Easton Conference with a six goals to nil thrashing of the Gold Coast Blue Tongues at the Icehouse. Chris Meister reports.
The atmosphere built early for this vital clash in the Easton Conference. The capacity crowd made their way to the Harbour Town precinct early, forcing the closure of the nearby car park prior to the game.
The Blue Tongues, coming in off the back of demolishing the Mustangs the previous evening, were looking for a repeat of their shutout victory over the Ice in the same venue just a few weeks earlier.
The result the previous evening for the Tongues, coupled with the loss by the Adrenaline in Perth suddenly gave extra incentive to the boys from the Sunshine State. For the Blue Tongues a second win on this road trip would see them draw closer in the standings and put some real pressure on the second placed Adrenaline.
The Ice have been in white-hot form since that loss to the Blue Tongues and a win in this one would seem skip clear in the Easton Conference.
They would also be buoyed by the return to the line up from injury of Tommy Powell and Matt Korthius, however would not be further bolstered by the return of Vinnie Hughes from suspension, which would have to wait another week.
The Ice completely dominated the match right from the first drop of the puck, a trend which continued through the first period.
It took less than a minute for the Ice to take the lead when Jason Baclig scooted free and put the puck in the top right corner before Tongues goalie Alain Giauque had time to react.
Powell injected himself back into the league as if he’d never been gone, combining on a number of occasions with the other returning forward, Korthuis.
The lead was almost doubled shortly thereafter when Phil Fjaestad put one on a plate for Austin McKenzie.
Further pressure came in the form of back to back power plays to the Ice through penalties against Adam Blanchette and Blue Tongues skipper Adam Geric.
These penalties were killed off by the visitors, however seconds later the Ice extended the lead to two, when Powell had an open shot and took it.
That was the final score of the period as a shot from Matt Armstrong flew wide to the sound of the siren. A penalty against Matt Maycock at the death would see the Ice start the second period on a power play.
The second period started in exactly the same way as the first, with a Baclig goal, giving the Ice a three goal lead. The only difference this time was that it took eighteen seconds longer for the Ice star to score.
The Blue Tongues did finally get some possession early in the second period and had some chances to score, most notably a golden chance for Marco Bertossa after a pass from James Sanford that was saved well by Stu Denman.
This momentum was halted by a penalty to Ross Howell, which was killed off, however as in the first period, the Ice scored directly after the end of the power play. Baclig completed his hat trick after a pin point pass from Powell to give Melbourne a four goal advantage.
Things went from bad to worse for the Tongues when gun import Mike McRae was given a match penalty after arguing with the referee following a penalty handed to him. He threw his stick on his way off the ice and although unaware it was in the direction of the linesman, it may be an action which finds attention from the league tribunal.
Adding insult to injury, Matt Armstong scored what would be the final two goals of the game, one during the ensuing power play off the back of the McRae penalty and another thirty seconds later after a Baclig interception led to Armstrong being one on one with the Alain Giauque.
The second period came to an end with a scuffle breaking out following a hit on Dylan Moore by Adam Blanchette, with Sandford getting involved as well. The end result was game penalties for Moore and Sandford, with Blanchette going to the penalty box.
The period of play also saw Ice import Matt Korthuis injured again, this time a leg injury. He limped off the ice and his immediate future must be in some doubt.
With the result of the match no longer in dispute, during the final period the Blue Tongues were able to control the puck much more than they had in the first two periods, forcing Denman to make a number of saves, however they never really looked like scoring.
A scare was thrown into the Ice camp just before the end of the game when Armstrong went down with what appeared to be a knee injury after being crunched into the boards. The extent of this injury will no doubt be the topic of much debate as the Ice will not want to lose a player of his class, experience and form for too long.
The game finished with yet another fight breaking out, when Mitch Humphries and Cam Trew went at it, with a major penalty for Trew and a match penalty for Humphries the result.
The final siren sounded probably to the relief of both coaches, with the Ice reversing the shutout defeat it was handed by the Blue Tongues in their previous meeting at the Icehouse.
For such a lop sided match on the scoreboard, it sure was feisty, a sign of the growing rivalry between these two clubs, particularly this year given the events between them in recent weeks.
The Blue Tongues host the improving Perth Thunder for a double header at their temporary home in Brisbane, a task made tougher by the loss of McRae through suspension.
The Ice travel north to play the Canberra Knights and Sydney Bears, two games they should be expecting to win, however nothing is ever assured on the road. They will desperately be hoping the injuries to Korthuis and Armstrong are not as bad as they looked as they both hobbled off the rink Sunday afternoon.
by Chris Meister
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