The Rocky Road To The AIHL Finals Continues

The AIHL never fails to throw up some surprises in 2014 but having 2 games postponed after a bus crash was not a good way to start the weekend. How is your team looking on the run into the AIHL finals in Melbourne on 30/31 August?

There was another interesting weekend in the AIHL over the weekend of July 19/20. The weekend started on a terrible note with the news that the Adelaide Adrenaline were involved in a bus crash enroute to the game against CBR Brave on Saturday. That game was postponed almost immediately however as news filtered through the AIHL community, Sunday’s game against the Sydney Bears was also postponed. The initial community reaction was swift and immediate on Saturday. On Saturday night, details emerged of the Adrenaline’s fight with QANTAS to get home early but thankfully that issue was resolved on Sunday, again in part thanks to the AIHL community and social media pressure. All of the Adrenaline players are now back in Adelaide.

There is now an extra headache at AIHL Headquarters with 2 make up games (CBR Brave v Adelaide Adrenaline and Sydney Bears v Adelaide Adrenaline) needing to be slotted into to a congested final month of AIHL action. Precedent this year has been set after the North Stars’ bus broke down enroute to Liverpool – that match was replayed a few weeks later, Notably, that game was originally an Ice Dogs home game but had to be moved to Newcastle due to the lack of ice availability at Liverpool. While it was on Newcastle ice, it was still be to treated as an Ice Dogs home game. Opinions across the league differ about how the 2 games involving the Adrenaline, Brave and Bears can be handled.

On the ice this weekend, controversy raged in Melbourne over the entire weekend due to on-ice officials handing out penalties out by the Zamboni-load over both days of the weekend, effectively ending the North Stars’ slim top 4 chances. It was a mixed weekend for Sydney based teams with the Bears losing but the Ice Dogs beating the Thunder.

Melbourne Mustangs

(1st, 38 points)

The MOAT: Melbourne Mustangs cemented the top step on the ladder this weekend and will be looking to remain there in their most successful season to date.

  • Last Week: Defeated the Newcastle North Stars 6-3 on Saturday in a penalty-marred match.
  • This Week:  A weekend off for the Stangs before a road trip to Perth should see 6 more points heading to the orange team. However, the Thunder are no pushover especially on home ice.
  • Run Home:  Not an easy run home travel wise with trips to Perth, Canberra and NSW. They play 3 realistic finals chances. Should remain top 4.
  • Remaining Games:  Thunder (A), Thunder (A), Brave (A), Brave (A), Ice (H), North Stars (H), North Stars (A), Ice Dogs (A)

 

Sydney Ice Dogs

(2nd, 36 points)

The 2013 Goodall Cup champions have not been this high on the ladder for most of this year but have come back into winning form. With one game last weekend and one game next weekend, the Sydney Ice Dogs should be well rested compared to other teams. They have now won 4 games in a row and will be keen to make it 5 games in a row against the Melbourne Ice.

  • Last Week: Welcomed back John Clewlow from international inline duties and slotted back right in with Simon Barg, David Dunwoodie and Robert Malloy. Were too strong against a spirited Thunder team, winning 5-3 on Sunday in Liverpool.
  • This Week: In what could be the match of the weekend, the Ice Dogs host the Melbourne Ice at Liverpool. This game will be extremely hard to pick the winner. The key would be keeping their main weapons on the ice and not in the penalty box.
  • Run Home:  With the exception of a road trip to Perth, the Ice Dogs stay within NSW for the rest of the season. Playing the Thunder 3 times as well as the North Stars and Bears should help them. Only 2 games against potential finalists Ice and Mustangs. Should remain in the top 4.
  • Remaining Games:  Ice (H), North Stars (A), Bears (A), Thunder (H), Thunder (A), Thunder (A), Mustangs (H)

 

Melbourne Ice

(3rd, 35 points)

The Melbourne Ice had a close game against the North Stars at the Icehouse on Sunday. Again marred by penalties, they were close to losing a game they could have won easily. Will be keen to get back into 2nd spot to leap over the Ice Dogs. Not much danger of leaving the top 4.

  • Last Week: An epic battle against the North Stars and a 5-4 win to the Ice. Those 3 points may help determine which top 4 position the Ice occupy.
  • This Week: A NSW road trip to Newcastle (Saturday) and Liverpool (Sunday) sees the Ice not certain of a NSW clean sweep against the North Stars and Ice Dogs. The Ice Dogs game may be a good preview of a finals series match-up.
  • Run Home: Final road trip of the season this week, travel should not be an issue for the Ice.  Matches against expected finalists should be close but should pick up easier points against the North Stars (2 games) and Thunder (2 games). There’s one more Melbourne Derby to end the season and a possible preview of a finals match. Should remain top 4.
  • Remaining Games: North Stars (A), Ice Dogs (A), Adrenaline (H), Adrenaline (H), Mustangs (A), North Stars (H), Thunder (H), Thunder (H)

 

CBR Brave

(4th, 30 points)

Regarded as the real deal in their first season as CBR Brave by many, they now have a game in hand after their game against the Adrenaline was postponed. There’s now a 5 point gap up to the Ice in 3rd. Will be keen to cement a spot in the finals above the Adrenaline.

  • Last Week: Due to the Adrenaline game being postponed, the Brave did not play on the weekend. They were excellent hosts to their brothers-in-arms after the bus crash.
  • This Week: The Brave fly to Perth for 2 games at the Thunderdome in what should be a great game in the west. Because the games against the Adrenaline were not played, Stephen Blunden and Harry Byers remain suspended and can not play the first game against the Thunder on Saturday. Are the Brave brave enough to leave their highest point scorer in Canberra considering the fact that he can only play one game? Will they blunder if they leave Blunden at home?
  • Run Home: Road trips to Perth, Adelaide and twice to the Bearsdome in Sydney means a lot of traveling. 5 games against teams well under them will help greatly. Having the Mustangs visit should be a highlight for the Brave faithful. Should remain top 4 but are in danger from the Adrenaline behind them. Need to keep winning. One match against the Adrenaline to be re-scheduled.
  • Remaining Games: Thunder (A), Thunder (A), North Stars (H), Bears (A), Mustangs (H), Mustangs (H), Adrenaline (A), Adrenaline (A), Bears (A).
  • Re-scheduled game against Adrenaline – time and venue to be advised.

 

Adelaide Adrenaline

(5th, 29 points)

The Adelaide Adrenaline obviously had a horrible weekend after a bus crash on Saturday enroute to Canberra. Both games (against Brave and Bears) were postponed and need to be re-scheduled. Need to keep winning to push the Brave out of 4th without relying on the re-scheduled games. Post-crash injuries are a concern.

  • Last Week: The weekend from hell without even seeing a minute of play.
  • This Week: Host the Bears in a couple of games in Adelaide. This weekend should see captain Greg Oddy’s 300th AIHL game at home. Will be looking to put last weekend behind them.
  • Run Home: 2 games against the Bears this weekend with 2 wins will be important for the Adrenaline’s finals chances. Injuries may be a factor this week but at least the games are in Adelaide. 2 games against the Ice and 2 against the Brave could go either way. Road trips to Canberra/Sydney then Melbourne to come. Possibly the final spot in the top 4 is theirs for the taking. A couple more regulation time wins might have been handy but shootout wins are better than shootout losses. 2 games to be re-scheduled.
  • Remaining Games:  Bears (H), Bears (H), Ice (A), Ice (A), Brave (H), Brave (H).
  • Re-scheduled games against Brave and Bears – times and venues to be advised.

 

Perth Thunder

(6th, 22 points)

The Thunder had a mixed weekend results wise in Sydney but played well. Perth Thunder have passed the North Stars on the table and may remain in 6th place. They will be looking to distance themselves as far away from the bottom of the table as possible.

  • Last Week: Playing well in Sydney, a 4-1 win against the Bears on Saturday was a good start to the weekend. On Sunday, the Ice Dogs were too strong wining 5-3 but the Thunder were not disgraced.
  • This Week: Hosting the Brave, the Thunder will be keen to perform well at home and salvage something out of their season. They could surprise the Brave.
  • Run Home: Hosting the Brave, Mustangs and Ice Dogs at the Thunderdome will help but they need to come home strong and rely on other results to make the finals. Hard to see that happening.
  • Games Remaining: Brave (H), Brave (H), Mustangs (H), Mustangs (H), North Stars (A), Ice Dogs (A), Ice Dogs (H), Ice Dogs (H), Ice (A), Ice (A)

Newcastle North Stars

(7th, 23 points)

A better weekend than expected in Melbourne for the Newcastle North Stars still saw 2 losses in what would have been a very frustrating weekend. Now playing for pride and wanting to keep above the Thunder & Bears.

  • Last Week: Two losses in Melbourne (6-3 to Mustangs and 5-4 to Ice) do not show the real story of the weekend on the scoreboard. An extra nail in the coffin for the North Stars finals chances. They were effectively penalised out of both matches.
  • This Week: A re-match against the Ice on North Stars home ice will hopefully see a good match in front of a passionate home crowd in the Hunter.
  • Run Home: Not the best run home with 2 more trips to Melbourne and several games against teams higher than them on the table. 4 games at home in theory should be a benefit. Missing a finals berth will not be pleasant for this proud club.
  • Remaining Games: Ice (H), Brave (A), Ice Dogs (H), Thunder (H), Bears (H), Mustangs (A), Ice (A), Mustangs (A).

 

Sydney Bears

(8th, 21 points)

A loss to the Thunder sees the Bears stay in the basement of the AIHL this season. A game in hand against the Adrenaline to be slotted in somewhere at the end of the season remains after the Sunday match was postponed. Losing 9 games in a row mid-season was arguably a season killer.

  • Last Week: A better game against the Thunder in Sydney however a 4-1 loss was the result. Sunday’s game was postponed.
  • This Week: A road trip to Adelaide will be emotional for the Adelaide fans. The Bears will be keen to get some points to remain close to the North Stars and Thunder. This week is possibly the best time to play the Adrenaline all year.
  • Run Home: Now too far back to make the finals but will want to give their fans a happy ending. 2 consecutive games against the Adrenaline, a Battle Of Sydney against the Ice Dogs and hosting CBR Brave twice will not be an easy task to end the season that started with such promise. There is one game in hand against the Adrenaline.
  • Remaining Games: Adrenaline (A), Adrenaline (A), Brave (H), Ice Dogs (H),  North Stars (A), Brave (H)
  • Re-scheduled game against Adrenaline – time and venue to be advised.

 

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

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