Mustangs gain crucial three points, set sight on Finals
Saturday, July 8, 2017 - Submitted by Bernard McNamara
The Melbourne Mustangs held their composure in one of the most physical games of the 2017 AIHL season to record a 5-3 win over the Sydney Ice Dogs on Saturday night at the O’Brien Group Arena in Melbourne.
In an epic battle between the Sydney Ice Dogs and Melbourne Mustangs, the home side comes away with three competition points. Photo: Phil Taylor.
The crucial four-vs-five AIHL ladder match-up lived up to expectations, as both sides battle for the coveted fourth and final AIHL playoff spot that will be determined in the next few games.
The Ice Dogs got on the board first when forward Stephen Johnston scored his sixth goal of the season. But Pat O’Kane answered right back for the home side, scoring a power goal with Ice Dogs defenceman Rory Rawlyk in the penalty box for hooking.
The second period was all out war, as both sides traded chances and hits. Rawlyk, with an assist by Johnston and Shannon McGregor, regained the lead for the visitors but tempers eventually reached boiling point with Ice Dogs forward David Dunwoodie and the Mustangs Andrew Belic both ejected from the game for the fighting. As a result of the incident, Dundwoodie will serve a 2 game suspension and for instigating the incident.
Ice Dogs David Dunwoodie and Mustangs Andrew Belic were both ejected from the game for fighting. Photo: Phil Taylor.
Mustangs’ Captain Jamie Bourke then levelled the scores with the Mustangs second power play goal of the night to send the sides to the second intermission tied 2-2.
The Mustangs clearly came out to play in the third period – notching up two goals in the first two minutes to Vadim Virjassov and Anton Kokkonen – and. The Mustangs Virjassov, Kokkonen and O'Kane combination proved a triple threat in front of nets and ignited the home crowd with a 4-2 lead.
The Ice Dogs undeterred, sustained pressure and managed to cut the lead in the half, when forward Grant Toulmin scored his 14th goal of the season with 1:21 left on the clock.
Grant Toulmin tours the Mustangs bench after circling the nets to score with laser-like accuracy, 1:21 left on the clock to halve the hometown lead. Photo: Phil Taylor.
In a last ditch effort to find an equalizer, the Ice Dogs pulled goalie Damien Ketlo for the extra attacker for the final minute. However Mustangs forward O’Kane extinguished any chance of an Ice Dogs comeback with an empty net goal in the dying seconds of the game, and in doing so, secured three competition points for the Melbourne club.
Both teams will be back in action on Sunday night for round two of this critical double-header. The Ice Dogs will be aiming to split the points and reduce the gap between them and the Mustangs (Mustangs 24 - Ice Dogs 21). While the Mustang will want to cement their spot in the top four on the AIHL ladder with back-to-back wins at home.
Get to the game to experience the electric atmosphere or watch the action on AIHL Live.