Saturday, September 2, 2017 - Submitted by Bernard McNamara
The Melbourne Ice powered past the Melbourne Mustangs to record a 4-2 win in the first Semi-Final of the 2017 AIHL Finals presented by Air Canada. Led by captain Lliam Webster the Ice are the first team to qualify for the 2017 Goodall Cup Final in front of a capacity crowd at the O’Brien Group Arena.
In a physical and tense game, the Melbourne Ice kept their cool and stuck to their game plan to clinch an important win. After the game, Coach Charles Franzen was full of the praise for his troops.
“I’m proud of the boys,” said Franzen, “today was all about getting through to the Final, which was the most important thing.”
“It was a game with a lot of emotion,” admitted Franzen, “the biggest opponent was going to be ourselves. It was all about keeping calm and not getting drawn into the cheap shots.”
Jason Baclig put the Ice on the board first in the opening period: the diminutive forward drove hard to the net and was reward for his effort.
Dayne Davis made a number of key saves in the opening period to give his side the edge and the Ice went into break leading the Mustangs 1-0.
Davis was the star of the second period – the Mustangs couldn’t find a way past the goalie despite recording 11 shots on net. Ice defenseman Niklas Dahlberg doubled his team’s lead with just over one minute left on the clock to give the AIHL minor premier a 2-0 lead by the second intermission.
Mustangs forward Mitch Humphries breathed life into the contest when the speedy winger finished off a nice passing play and slid the puck under Davis to the cut the Ice’s lead in half, 2-1. Humphries, who began the season with the Melbourne Ice has been a key driver behind the Melbourne Mustangs resurgence in 2017.
“We fought hard, the boys really fought back in the third period,” said Mustangs Coach Michael Flaherty.
“We’ve had to fight all season. We didn’t get off to a great start this year and we had to really climb and scrap our way into the playoffs, and we had to do it again to the get back into the game today,” said Flaherty.
Ice Captain Webster took a nice drop pass from Joey Hughes and fired the puck over the Mustangs goalie James Kruger’s glove into the top corner to move ahead 3-1.
The Mustangs managed to claw a goal back, as forward Anton Kokkonen found the back of the net with just over five minutes left on the clock. With a one-goal difference now in play, the Mustangs’ fans spurred their team to push hard for an equaliser, however with their goalie on the bench for the extra attacker, Ice forward Sebastian Ottosson was able to score an empty net goal and clinch the 4-2 win for the Melbourne Ice and secure the first spot in the 2017 AIHL Grand Final, Goodall Cup Championship.
After being eliminated from the last year’s Semi-Final, the Ice know there’s still plenty of work to do before they can raise the Goodall Cup.
“We need to have a bit more speed tomorrow” said Coach Franzen.
“It will also depend on who we play, the strength of our team is our four lines, the other team use maybe two, and two and a half.”
“We’ll go back to our hotel and rest and get ready, the main thing is to start preparing our heads and focus on what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
The Melbourne Ice will take on the winning team from the Semi-Final game, played at 6pm AEST. Watch live and free on AIHL Live.