At Canberra's Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre Saturday night, the game opened with plenty end-to-end hockey, but the goaltending efforts of the Brave's Aleksi Toivonen and Thunder's Peter Di Salvo saw each of these opportunities go begging.
It was eventually the Brave who opened the scoring, with Casey Kubara deflecting a Dominic Jalbert slap shot from the blue line over the glove side shoulder of Di Salvo, giving the home side a 1-0 lead with 16 seconds left in the period.
Perth Thunder coach Dave Ruck noted the slow start from his side, saying, “We have been tweaking our lines. We came away with a different look and it took a little bit for them to get communication down and just get used to each other. We gave up a goal that we shouldn’t have at the end of the first. We weren’t doing the simple things right.”
Kudla and Wudrick battle for the puck. Photo credit Paul Furness.
The battle of the goaltenders continued in the second, but the Thunder would be the team to break the trend as a 3-on-2 formed. Ben Breault unleashed a wicked wrist shot that caught Toivonen out of position and drew the Thunder back to 1-1 with 10:29 left in the second period.
Both teams would continue to test the opposing goalie but neither was able to convert and the teams made their way to the locker rooms for the second intermission.
Less than 2 minutes into the third period, Perth Thunder broke the deadlock thanks to a power play goal from Christian Ouellet that found its way through a small gap between Toivonen and the goal post. Ouellet’s goal from the point gave the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Not to be outdone, CBR Brave's Jalbert came flying down the wing before cutting across the face of goal slide one past Di Salvo and bring the home side back to 2-2 with just 5 minutes left in the game.
CBR Brave defender, Dominic Jalbert, equalises the game at 2 in the third period. Photo credit Paul Furness.
It looked like the game would end in a shootout, but then Jamie Woodman and the Perth Thunder had other ideas. A combination of strong forechecking by the Thunder and a number of defensive miscues, led to the Brave being unable to clear the zone, and the puck falling to Woodman with a flailing Toivonen doing his all to stop the sustained pressure. Woodman made no mistake as he hit the back of a near empty net with Toivonen stranded on the far post, giving the Thunder a 3-2 lead with just 45 seconds left in the game.
The Brave continued to pressure Di Salvo, and pulled Toivonen for the extra attacker with 37 seconds left, but they were unable to find a late equaliser.
Perth Thunder celebrate the win and an important three points on the road. Photo credit Paul Furness.
Brave Coach Rob Starke pointed to the areas that the Brave need to improve on, “I think we have to continue to be shot focussed, which we are. We’ve got to continue to get more traffic in front of the net and go to the dirty areas. Everyone was firing and everyone was going hard and I think if we do play at that work ethic tomorrow night, we will have a better result.” While Starke liked what he saw, he lamented the missed opportunities, “I thought we played an excellent game. It was a well balanced attack. We really showed our depth tonight but at the end of the day, you aren’t going to win too many hockey games in this league scoring 2 goals.”
Ruck ultimately praised the effort of the Thunder after a tough road win, saying “It was a really good gutsy win from our guys. To put together a whole game in this barn was fantastic.”