Sunday, June 11, 2017 - Submitted by Luke Worthington
The Melbourne Mustangs have defeated the Sydney Bears in a 6-4 thriller at Macquarie Ice Arena.
Mustangs import goaltender James Kruger collected his first AIHL career win, after landing in Australia on Thursday, and leaving for a NSW road trip only a day later.
It was the Bears second loss in as many days, after dropping the Sydney Battle 3-0 against the Sydney Ice Dogs on Saturday night.
Mustangs head coach Michael Flaherty said the win accounted for a crucial three points.
“It’s a lot of travel, and it’s a long way to go and not come home with any points so those three points will help us,” he said.
“We just focus on our game, and what we want to do, and against the Bears it seems to work a little bit better than it does against other teams.
“They [the Bears] are a very good team with some great players, and we have to work hard to get results.”
Commenting on import James Kruger’s first AIHL win he said it was good to see him stand up at a crucial time.
“He only arrived in the country on Thursday, and I think he was still half asleep for most of the trip up here,” Flaherty said.
“He really stood up for us today when we needed it most, late in the game he made some key saves, which were vital to the result.”
A four-goal first period saw the Bears open the scoring through Nick Rivait, but Brendan McDowell and Anton Kokkonen were able to give the Mustangs a 2-1 lead. Sydney Bears defenseman Tyrell Clare put the Bears back in the contest with a blast from the right wing to end the period at 2-2.
The second period showcased a similar narrative with Jackson Brewer and Vlad Rubes opening the scoring for the Bears. Anton Kokkonen unleashed a rocket from the slot after receiving a pass from Pat O’Kane on the powerplay, which was followed by a Matthew Beattie goal with 0:26 remaining in the period, tying the game up at 4-4.
Mustangs import goaltender James Kruger shutout the Bears in the third period, despite being outshot 12-4. Sean Jones scored the game winning goal 38 seconds into the period, then put the game out of reach with an empty net goal with 1:12 remaining to seal a Mustangs 6-4 victory.
The Mustangs will head to Adelaide next weekend for a two game stand against the Adrenaline, while the Bears head south to Canberra where they will face the Brave.