The AJIHL Semi Finals hit Melbourne on Sunday with the top two teams in the league going head to head for a spot in the Finals. The Melbourne Blackhawks will look to knock off their home town rivals the Melbourne Red Wings for a place in next week’s premier event. Andrew Hewitt with more.
VENUE & DATE :: Medibank Icehouse, Sunday 3rd of March 5PM
LAST TIME :: 03/02/13 Red Wings 3 def. Blackhawks 1 at Medibank Icehouse :: Game Recap
WHAT’S WHAT :: Not often does it happen, but sometimes the two best sides in a sporting league cannot meet in the Final due to the format of the competition. In the case of the AJIHL, this is exactly what has happened.
All season long the Melbourne Blackhawks and Melbourne Red Wings have been the stand out sides with both lighting up the scoring charts and heading the standings.
The teams have met on eight occasions thus far with the Red Wings holding the advantage winning five times.
Being the leagues’ highest scoring side, the Red Wings will need to capitalise on all their opportunities against the Blackhawks who have conceded the least goals in the AJIHL over it’s inaugural season.
The Red Wings are by far the more disciplined of the two sides with the Blackhawks giving away 51 PIM more than their Melbourne rivals. If the Blackhawks are to make it through to the AJIHL Final, they must keep their discipline in check.
WHO’S HOT :: Without any doubt the Blackhawks and Red Wings have the most feared forwards in the AJIHL. Led by Brendan McDowell, the scoring prowess of the Melbourne sides include players such as Austin McKenzie, Matt Stringer and Paul Lazzarotto.
If you were to pick one player form each side who was in the hottest form, from the Red Wings there is no competition; it has to be McDowell. The young Red Wings Captain leads the league in scoring with 33 points (26G, 7A) from the 14 games played. Averaging 2.35 points per game 1.92 goals per game, Brendan McDowell has the ability to tear a game apart in a single period.
On the Blackhawks side of the fence, choosing leading scorer Austin McKenzie would be the easy choice. For mine, the hottest player on their roster and a crucial part to the Blackhawks AJIHL Championship aspirations is Paul Lazzarotto. Often Lazzarotto is not given the respect he should command, mainly due to him not yet playing at the AIHL level unlike some of his teammates. Lazzarotto is a dangerous, skilful player that can hurt any side. His consistent scoring record is great, however when coupled with his impeccable discipline record, Lazzarotto becomes a real force.
WE THINK :: In a Semi that deserves the tag of the Final it will be very hard to pick a winner. Two great offensive sides, the key for a Blackhawks victory will be shutting down the McDowell/Stringer offence and keeping themselves out of the penalty box. When Red Wings Goalie James McKendrick is on song it is always hard to score and so the Blackhawks must make the most of each chance. If the Red Wings are to progress they must find a way through the toughest defence in the league, putting up quality shots whenever possible and keeping Blackhawks goalie Mackenzie Hill under pressure. My tip – Red Wings 4-2
By Andrew Hewitt
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