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CBR Brave to face Melbourne Ice in AIHL Grand Final
- Submitted by

The CBR Brave have broken their 2017 hoodoo against the Perth Thunder at the right time to defeat the Thunder 6-2 in the second Semi-Final at the O’Brien Group Arena and claim their place in the AIHL Grand Final.

(CBR v Perth 2017 AIHL Finals Presented by Air Canada - Phil Taylor)

The puck dropped and both sides immediately set to feeling out the other, neither side truly tested the opposing goalie on any of the early probing attempts.

The Thunder was unable to capitalise on their early power play opportunities with the Brave solid in defence. The first period ended tied 0-0 with neither team able to break the ice.

The CBR Brave were first to break the deadlock with Stephen Blunden roofing a shot from close range to beat Peter Di Salvo over the shoulder and give the Brave a 1-0 lead with 14:05 left in the second period.

However the Thunder were replied in under a minute’s play later, when Christian Oulette beat Aleksi Toivonen with a similarly roofed shot to bring the Thunder back to 1-1.

The penalties then started to pile up for the Perth Thunder, leading to an extended period of power play advantage for the Brave. Geordie Wudrick delivered the Brave a 2-1 lead with a scrappy power play goal with 8:40 left in the second period. The second period closed with the Brave leading by the smallest possible margin, holding a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.

Perth started the third period with intent: Jessyko Bernard beat Toivonen over the shoulder with just 26 seconds into the third period to bring the game back to 2-2.

The Brave were quick to address the challenge with Dominic Jalbert launching a wrist shot from the blue line that beat Di Salvo off the post and give the Brave a 3-2 lead. The Brave, sensing that the Perth Thunder were reeling, continued to apply pressure and soon extended their lead 4-2 with a power play snipe.

With 16 crucial minutes left in the game the Thunder searched for a way back but were unable to dig deep enough and appeared to suffer from a few lapses in focus and costly penalties.  

Perth Thunder Assistant Coach Darin Bryce knew this was a key turning point in the game.

“I think the fourth goal from the point, it was a screen, kind of a nothing shot, it was a smart shot from Jalbert,” said Bryce.

“Our goalie was screened and that was a tough one to take. You feel the bench and you’re trying to keep your players going, but I think you’re going to have a tough time against a team like Canberra from two or three goals down.

With a roaring Brave fan base in the packed stands, the Brave added another power play goal as Wahebe Darge dished across the face of Di Salvo to Blunden who caught Di Salvo on the far post to an almost empty net and extend the lead to 5-2 with 8:05 left in the game.

With just under 2 minutes the Thunder pulled Di Salvo for the extra attacker, but Geordie Wudrick took possession in neutral ice and walked in to an empty net to give the Brave a 6-2 lead with 1:50 left in the game.

(CBR v Perth 2017 AIHL Finals Presented by Air Canada - Phil Taylor)

Bryce believes Thunder will recover from here and build their strength.

“We’ve got a lot of young talent, they’ve got to get over today but we have the depth and we have young players and we’ve always had a good complement of imports.

“Stan’s [Scott] has always done a great job at getting some of the best imports in the country. It’s just a matter of mental toughness, one of the guys in the dressing room tonight said it, its just the mental preparation and toughness of the young players, they’ve just got to mature and grow into it.

Perth’s message home to their fans?

“We’ve got a great bunch of fans in the west, they stick by us. Just keep sticking by us, we are going to keep being in the finals.

CBR’s focus is squarely on that Cup

The CBR Brave came into the game having been swept by the Thunder in the regular season, but sent a clear statement to fans that they’ve got their eye on the Cup, undaunted by past performances.

(CBR v Perth 2017 AIHL Finals Presented by Air Canada - Phil Taylor)

CBR Brave Head Coach Rob Starke noted a few nerves to begin with, but overall, felt his team kept to their plan and their consistency paid off.

“We were extremely consistent and we’ve preached that. We weren’t too high, we weren’t too low,” said Starke.

“When we scored goals we stayed even keeled, when we had goals against we stayed even keeled and we just steadied the ship and really played with some controlled emotions out there, and that’s what you need on the big stage.”

Starke’s thoughts on how to bring home the Brave’s maiden Goodall Cup?

“We will have to make some adjustments in our structure and our play, but we’re a very good hockey deep. We’re a deep team, we’re a fast skating team, we execute very well and I think we match up very well against the Ice.

“We will be ready,” finished Starke.

The 2017 AIHL Grand Final presented by Air Canada will be streamed at 3pm AEST, Sunday 3 September live and free at AIHL Live.

Watching from outside Australia? Convert your timezone here.


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AIHL VIDEOS
2017 AIHL SEMI-FINAL 2 HI
2017 AIHL SEMI-FINAL 1 HI
STANDINGS
TEAM GP W L D OW OL TP
Ice 28 22 3 0 2 1 71
Thunder 28 16 6 0 3 3 57
Brave 28 13 11 0 3 1 46
Mustangs 28 11 12 0 2 3 40
Ice Dogs 28 12 16 0 0 0 36
Bears 28 8 14 0 3 3 33
Northstars 28 7 15 0 3 3 30
Adrenaline 28 6 18 0 1 3 23
SCORING LEADERS GOALIE LEADERS
PLAYER GP G A PTS
B Breault (PT) 27 22 36 58
G Wudrick (CB) 25 20 34 54
D Jalbert (CB) 28 16 37 53
C Ouellet (PT) 23 14 34 48
J Bourke (MM) 28 24 23 47
S Blunden (CB) 16 24 22 46
J Brewer (SB) 27 17 28 45
J Harcharik (NNS) 26 20 24 44
SCORING LEADERS GOALIE LEADERS
GOALIE GP W GAA SV%
D Davis (MI) 22 20 2.33 .907
P Di Salvo (PT) 28 19 2.54 .924
D Ketlo (SID) 28 12 2.77 .923
J Kruger (MM) 18 10 3.18 .902
A Toivonen (CB) 24 12 3.41 .874
A Kimlin (SB) 18 8 3.42 .901
J Pine-Murphy (MI) 7 4 3.67 .836
M Murphy (AA) 16 5 3.75 .911
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