Sunday, July 29, 2012 - Submitted by Peter Lambert
The Proski Newcastle North Stars became the first team in the AIHL to secure a finals place after defeating the Canberra Knights 9-1 in their Sunday night game.
Their second win of the weekend – on Saturday night defeating the Adelaide Adrenaline 5-2 – elevated Newcastle to 42 competition points, putting them out of reach of the Sydney Bears and Canberra Knights in the Bauer Conference.
The North Stars have yet to clinch the conference champions title, with the Sydney Ice Dogs still able to reach a potential maximum of 48 points.
In the Easton conference the Melbourne Ice have been patchy of late, losing two games in the last three rounds, but are still strongly positioned to win the Easton Conference.
Saturday's game may have been an AIHL semi-final preview, with the Adrenaline currently best-placed to take second position in the Easton Conference, although recent form from both the Thunder and Blue Tongues may threaten their place.
Assuming the Melbourne Ice carry their form through to win the Easton Conference, they will play either the Sydney Bears or Ice Dogs.
Both of Newcastle’s games on the weekend saw them come out the gate quick and fast and secure a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period.
In their game against the Adrenaline, coach Garry Doré said the North Stars came out flying and put pressure on the Adrenaline.
The pressure built until the cracks started showing and penalties were awarded for the frustrated Adelaide player confrontations that came up more frequently from the second half of the second period to the end of the game.
However, the North Stars refocused in the third period and took advantage of their opportunities with some ‘unusual goals’ despite the game becoming increasingly physical.
Sunday’s 9-1 win for the North Stars was built off a 3-0 first period, with the Knights missing out on a goal against Newcastle backup Josh Broekman, when the Newcastle defence pulled the puck off the goal line before it could cross.
From then on though, it was the North Stars who had the majority of possession and puck control.
The Knights used their high levels of fitness to provide some strong counter-attack moments, especially Nick Polaski, who stood out amongst the Knights players as a leader and difference maker in both directions.
The second period was slowed down a little with penalties but the North Stars still managed two more goals, ending the period up 5-0.
The chances of a shutout for Broekman were shattered early in the third period, but North Stars replied with four goals in the third and final period for a 9-1 win.