Monday, September 3, 2012 - Submitted by Ellie-Marie Watts
The Melbourne Ice have done what no other Australian Ice Hockey League team has done before and has won three AIHL Championships in a row.
The Melbourne Ice defeated the Newcastle North Stars 4-3 at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium on Sunday, September 2, in front of a sold out crowd and with several hundreds of people watching around the world.
After the game AIHL Commissioner Tyler Lovering said it was fair to call the grand-final one of the best games ever played.
Both teams came out quick and with a lot of intensity.
Thirty-three seconds into the game Todd Graham was called for a hooking penalty sending the Newcastle North Stars on their first power play.
While they were unable to use the penalty, three minutes later Beau Taylor was able to convert a shot on Stu Denman into the North Stars first of the night.
The North Stars dominated the first half of the first period, but it soon changed with Melbourne finding their feet and taking over the sway of the game.
Jason Baclig made a spectacular break away with the puck, and to the delight of Ice fans and the horror of Newcastle fans, Olivier Martin raced out to the blue line to meet him.
Martin went to smother, missed the puck, and had to madly scramble back to the North Stars net before the Ice – who were by then set up to score – could do anything with the puck.
The play, while brilliant to watch, resulted in no conversion.
The intensity kept up with both teams making hits, taking the puck up and down the ice, and trying to convert attempts on goal but it was Newcastle’s Brian Bales to gain the next goal.
With two minutes remaining in the game, Bales scored, taking the North Stars to 2-0.
Matt Armstrong had something to say for that, when seconds after the face-off, converted one of their nine attempts at goal to get their one for the first period.
From there it was a comeback for the Ice when five minutes into the second period Lliam Webster tied the game 2-2.
You could see the Ice had turned it up a notch and took it right down to the wire.
With 58 seconds to go, the game still tied, Jason Baclig broke away to make a diving goal and brought the Ice ahead for the first time in the game, 3-2.
The Melbourne Ice powerhouse kept coming in the third period with another opening goal made by Webster.
With 9.39 remaining in the game, the Ice led 4-2.
The same as in 2011, the game came down to five minutes and one goal difference.
Newcastle scrambled to close the 4-2 gap, starting to do so with a cross-shot made by Kevin Day to take it to 4-3.
5.44 to go and Newcastle needed to keep up the momentum, but the Melbourne Ice kept them out with impressive defensive work, and achieving the “3peat”.
AIHL award winners were:
Top goaltender: Anthony Kimlin of the Gold Coast Blue Tongues (Goals against average 2.25%, Save percentage .935)
Top Defeseman: Rob Lawrance from the Newcastle North Stars (33 points, 5 goals, 28 assists)
Rookie of the Year: Tied between the Adelaide Adrenaline’s Charlie Huber (10 points, 4 goals, 6 assists) and the Blue Tongues Greg Bay (11 points, 5 goals, 6 assists).
The AIHL’s leading scorers, Newcastle’s Jeremy Boyer and Tomas Landa from the Sydney Bears were the League’s Most Valuable Players for the 2012 season.
Both on 58 points, Boyer converted 25 goals and made 33 assists. Landa converted 19 goals and made 39 assists.
The MVP for the play-off series was awarded to the Ice’s Todd Graham.
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