Perth were in a state of disarray earlier this season, with issues on and off the ice. Now, the Thunder have come a long way in a short space of time to all of a sudden contend for the Goodall Cup.
TWO months ago, I wrote a piece about Perth Thunder, and the season they were having. The feature story looked at how the Thunder appeared to be on their knees, on and off the ice.
This will be much the same, except I will be looking at how the Perth Thunder have turned their season around from cellar-dwellers to finals contenders.
They have crept up the ladder under the radar up to sixth spot at the time of writing this article, but with ten games to go and only five points the difference between fourth and sixth, a finals appearance is definitely not out of the question.
I will admit, I am not the biggest ice hockey fan in the world. I was introduced to the game earlier this year. I had watched it on television in the past, but wasn’t the most avid fan of the sport. After watching the first two home games the Perth Thunder played this season, I was having doubts about how far the Perth Thunder can go and is it worth going to watch the games.
And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one having doubts. Supporters were hopeful of improvement, but there were no immediate signs.
After coach Dylan Forsythe stepped down, general manager Stan Scott had to step in and pick up the pieces and give Perth life once again. He wasted little time, taking his side to Melbourne to hopefully get their season back on track, where they shared the points across the weekend with the Mustangs.
All the imports had an influence that weekend. As discussed in my previous opinion piece, imports were in and out of the side due to injury and other hockey commitments. But since then, they have been fantastic for the Perth-based club and their rejuvenation.
Mathieu Dugas has been unbelievable as goaltender, Corey Toy has been the rock in defence and has managed to score goals himself, whilst forwards Stuart Stefan and Justin Fox have been major goal scorers for Perth.
All of Perth’s imports have brought an attacking and exciting flair to their game plan, getting fans excited when on the attack.
Credit has to be given to Scott, who has taken Perth from the bottom to a more respectable position.
One apparent aspect about Perth on the ice since Scott’s takeover is their attitude. Scott has brought a sense of ruthlessness to their game in a bid to make their presence felt in the heat of the battle. And the passion he’s brought to his coaching has instilled that confidence in the Thunder to show that attitude.
This attitude wasn’t as evident in the early stages of the season, but has grown dramatically as the season has gone on.
And the fans love it too.
Perth supporters have come out in force to watch the Thunder take it up to their opponents. I say this with a laugh, but it is almost with hostility that the fans get behind their home team and get in the faces of the opposition, making the atmosphere often uncomfortable for visitors.
Arguably the turning point of their season was when they played host to the Adelaide Adrenaline in early June. It was party time in Perth, as the Thunder defeated Adelaide 7-1 on the first night and 6-2 in the second of the double-header. This weekend ignited their charge up the ladder and get their names on the winners list.
They have only lost two games since, to the Ice Dogs and the Bears on the road. The Thunder have all of a sudden got people thinking ‘Can Perth contend for the Goodall Cup?’.
Last year, 47 points was enough to reach the final in the regular season. Perth, who currently sit in sixth place with 25 points, along with Canberra, have at least two games in hand compared to other side
Mathematically, it’s not out of the equation, but it is going to be very hard to get that fourth position.
That fourth position is held by the CBR Brave, who the Perth Thunder face this weekend in a double-header, this time in Western Australia. Thunder will be seeking revenge this time around after being humiliated by the Brave in May 5-1 before losing in a shootout 5-4.
This weekend looms as make-or-break for Perth, with a finals appearance up for grabs. If Perth win both games in regulation time this weekend, they will go above Canberra on the AIHL ladder. In saying that, they can jump to fourth if Adelaide fall to the Bears and Ice Dogs in Adelaide this weekend.
Two months is a long time in sport, and things can turn around very quickly. The Thunder are prime examples of turning form around and being competitive once again. They are going to need a few miracles to get to the finals.
So can Perth still contend for the AIHL finals? Absolutely they can.
The Goodall Cup? Anything is possible. Because after all, A storm is brewing….