Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - Submitted by Stephen White
It’s the end of September and that means that yet another AIHL season has come to a close. As usual, 2017 provided a number of memorable moments and storylines that will be talked about for years to come. In no particular order, here are ten that stood out in a year packed with stories.
Melbourne Ice break Championship hoodoo
After several failed attempts to recapture the Goodall Cup since their threepeat success, including falling at the final hurdle in 2014 and 2015, the Melbourne Ice were determined to take home the AIHL’s prized silverware, the Goodall Cup in 2017.
Melbourne Ice claimed the Goodall Cup in a record-breaking season. Photo: Tania Chalmers.
Commanded by new Head Coach Charles Franzen and a much talked about off-ice restructure, the Ice assembled arguably the deepest roster ever seen in the AIHL and proceeded to march all the way to the regular season premiership with an AIHL record 22 wins and 71 points, dropping only 3 games in regulation and 1 in the shootout. The Ice then overcame their crosstown rivals the Melbourne Mustangs in the semi-final and defeated their fiercest rival over the last two seasons, the CBR Brave, 4-1 in the 2017 AIHL Goodall Cup Final presented by Air Canada to capture their 4th title in front of their hometown fans.
Mr 600 – Greg Oddy passes the 600 point plateau
One of the AIHL’s and Australian hockey’s greatest ever servants, the Adelaide Adrenaline’s Greg Oddy, grabbed his 600th AIHL career point against the Melbourne Mustangs in Melbourne on 21st May 2017. Oddy turned back the clock with a vintage performance, putting on a four-point night which culminated in an assist to an Ales Kratoska goal which tipped him over the 600 point mark.
Two-time Goodall Cup winner, Oddy’s career points total now totals 615 points in 383 AIHL games played and sits a casual 211 points clear of 2nd place Vlad Rubes of the Sydney Bears at 404 points.
Cool story, Breault: Ben Breault grabs the goal of the season
Perth Thunder’s Ben Breault undeniably scored the AIHL goal of the season against the Melbourne Mustangs. Picking up the puck in his own zone, Breault skated up ice and put a head fake around Pat O’Kane, before splitting the defensive pair in Troy Robertson and Jack McCoy and then finished it upstairs on James Kruger. A thing of beauty.
Ben Breault from the Perth Thunder on a breakaway. Photo: Richard Costello.
Breault also picked up the AIHL scoring title in his second year in the league, putting up 22 goals and 36 assists in 27 games, on arguably the best line in the league with Christian Ouellet and Jessyko Bernard.
The ZaneTrain cometh!
The Newcastle Northstars’ Zane Jones was a standout for the defending Goodall Cup champions this season. Quickly becoming a fan favourite (or villain depending on which team you support), dual Australian-Canadian citizen Jones put up 12 goals and 6 points in 16 games in his first season in the league, despite being injured for a great deal of the season. Jones was also a dominant physical presence for the Northstars, and it was his ability to throw all of his 191cm, 95kg frame around that opened up opportunities for his Northstars teammates
Jones punctuated his hard nosed style of play with the AIHL check of the season on Adelaide Adrenaline forward Cam Critchlow, who decided to cut across the train tracks in the offensive zone, unknown that the #26 express was coming the other way.
Dayne Davis into the record books
Adding to the Melbourne Ice’s record breaking year, goaltender Dayne Davis set the AIHL record for wins by a goaltender this year with 22 Ws. Davis finished with 20 wins and one regulation loss in 22 games played, recording two shutouts and finishing with a save percentage of .907% and a GAA of 2.33.
It was the third straight Goodall Cup for Davis, his previous two coming with the Newcastle Northstars in 2015 and 2016 – and was the first threepeat for any goaltender since the Melbourne Ice’s Stu Denman (2010 to 2012).
Sydney Ice Dogs resurgence
The Sydney Ice Dogs move to Macquarie Ice Rink signified a new era for the club. The fans were back, new Head Coach Chris Blagg took the reigns and the Dogs played exciting, physical hockey. Grant Toulmin returned to put up a team high 42 points, Stephen Johnston was one of the most dangerous forwards in the league and the up and coming youth of James Marino, Ellesse Carini and Lachlan Shumak showed the future was bright. And then there was the wall that was Damien Ketlo between the pipes.
Unfortunately, the Dogs ran out of steam in the last few games of the season and fell 4 points short of a Goodall Cup Finals berth. Interestingly enough, the Dogs were the only team to have all of their regular season games settled in regulation.
They did, however, lead the league in the PR department with several memorable ads – most notable of which was their Canada Day Classic promotion with Grant Toulmin leading the way.
Bourke’s Backyard: Jamie Bourke’s career year
The Melbourne Mustangs’ Jamie Bourke enjoyed a career renaissance this year, equalling his career best 47 points from season 2013. Bourke led all Australian born players with 24 goals and 23 assists in 28 games, tying Stephen Blunden for the goal scoring lead and was in the mix for the AIHL scoring title until the very last weekend of the season.
Jamie Bourke captained one of the two All-Star teams in 2017 as part of a stellar year. Photo: Richard Costello.
He had three hat tricks on the year and 6 games where he had 3 points or more and was deadly in the attacking zone, playing with Pat O’Kane and Maxime Langelier-Parent.
Bourke also hit all 4 targets on 4 shots in a total of 9.6 seconds in the Shooting Accuracy Competition at the AIHL all-star game in June to set the record.
Blunden fastest to 100 goals
The CBR Brave’s Stephen Blunden became the fastest player in AIHL history to reach the 100 goal mark in an offensively stacked season for the Canberra club.
Blunden missed a great portion of the year with a hand injury but made up for lost time with expedience, registering 24 goals and 22 assists in just 16 games on the year. In Blunden’s first game back from injury on 22 July 2017, he put a crazy 6 goals past a hapless Adelaide Adrenaline – the 6th being goal #100. He also scored the lone goal in the Goodall Cup Final for the CBR Brave but was unable to land the Goodall Cup in his 2nd Goodall Cup Final.
In what is rumoured to be his final season in Australia, Blunden leaves the AIHL with 108 goals, 122 assists in 78 games, averaging 2.9 PPG over his four-year span with the CBR Brave.
The quality of goaltending in the AIHL proved to be the best it’s ever been in season 2017.
However, it was two that stood above the rest: the Sydney Ice Dogs’ Damien Ketlo and the Perth Thunder’s Peter Di Salvo. Ketlo walked away with the AIHL Goaltending Award for 2017 but you could honestly flip a coin between them as they were both that good.
Mr Golden Glove, Damien Ketlo import goaltender for the Sydney Ice Dogs proved a key component for his team, takign award the AIHL 2017 Goaltender of the Year for his efforts. Photo: Peter Podlaha.
Another incident of note: when an almost season ending injury happened to starter Fraser Carson, Melbourne Mustangs’ goaltending coach Damien Holland became the oldest rookie in AIHL history when he suited up between the pipes against the Sydney Bears at 48 years of age. The arrival of James Kruger midseason proved also to be a turning point for the Mustangs, when his stellar play led them to a playoff berth that many believed had eluded them earlier in the year.
And then there was Matt Murphy’s casual 62 save winning effort for the Adrenaline over the CBR Brave back in June.
Baranzelli calls it a day
Melbourne Ice defenceman Paul Baranzelli called time on his hockey career in 2017 and did so in the most emphatic fashion possible, by capturing the Goodall Cup in his very last game.
Since entering the AIHL in 2009 with the Sydney Bears, Baranzelli notched 24 goals and 41 assists in 161 games with three different AIHL teams. Baranzelli also captured the Goodall cup in 2013 as a member of the Sydney Ice Dogs. Baranzelli also served the Mighty Roos diligently since becoming naturalised in 2015, putting up 5 goals and 7 assists in 15 games for Australia.
Luca Baranzelli joined his father Paul on the ice for the All-Star Weekend presented by APA Group, stealing the show. Photo: Richard Costello.
Perhaps overshadowing his father Paul stepping into retirement with a 2nd Goodall Cup to his name, Luca Baranzelli decided to step into the action and stole the show at the AIHL All-Star Game. Luca got to the 2nd last round of the elimination shootout until he put one wide of the net of Anthony Kimlin. Will we see Luca one day in the AIHL?