Sydney Bears have inflicted Perth’s first loss of the season, shutting out the Thunder 5-0 at the Perth Ice Arena Saturday night.
Remaining unbeaten after six starts, the Thunder was brimming with confidence as they took to the ice.
However, this was the Thunder’s first game without goalie leader Peter Di Salvo. Daniel Wilkinson started his first AIHL game in goal, and Perth Sharks AJIHL goaltender Mark McCann backed him up.
While the Thunder was keen to continue the team’s strong start to the year, the Bears were eager to continue moving up the ladder.
A physical start to the game worked in favour of the Bears who managed to hold off the Thunder for the first ten minutes of the opening period.
Sydney seized an early lead after Bears forward Richard Tesarik netted the game’s opening goal just after the half way mark (7:37) of the first had ticked over.
Buoyed by the goal, the Bears side went on the attack, making it hard for the Thunder forwards to get the puck in deep and forcing some untimely turn overs in the neutral zone.
With 40 seconds left in the first, Bears defenceman Patrick Ward scored a second goal for the visitors heading into the first intermission.
The second period began where the first left off. Perth seemed a step behind the Sydney team, lacking speed and offensive pressure that has proven troublesome for opponents this year.
After the Perth squad was unable to score on a struggling power play, the second period took a turn for the worse for Thunder goalie Daniel Wilkinson. Joseph Harcharik (10:56) and Cameron Todd (7:22) both found the back of the net.
With Wilkinson pulled, McCann was thrust into the net for the Thunder but the Bears claimed a fifth goal through Adrian Esposito at 2:07 before the second intermission.
As the third began, both teams tightened their respective defences. Both McCann and Jarina defending strongly to ensure it was a scoreless period.
After the game, Thunder captain Sam Wilson and coach Dave Kenway felt the team was lacking the speed and intensity they had been delivering so far this season and found it hard to stick to their game plan.
“We’ve got a lot to bring, this team,” Wilson said. “We weren’t skating hard tonight, and after a couple bad goals our game plan went out the window and we stopped playing as a team. When that happens, that’s the result you’re going to get every time.”
Wilson continued, saying that the result could also be put down to the underestimating the Bears.
“Every team in this league is hard to beat, and if you come out thinking the game is already won, then you’re setting yourself up for a loss every time,” Wilson said.
Although Thunder coach Dave Kenway shared his captain’s feelings towards the game, he felt the team showed a bit of promise in the third heading into the second game.
“The first couple periods were a bit flat for us and the Bears just jumped on the opportunity,” Kenway said. “But our third period looked better, and hopefully we can build on that heading into the tomorrow’s game.”
For Bears coach Vladimir Rubes, the win helped the belief for his side, feeling they would be able to take a clean sweep of the weekend.
“It always feels good to beat the top team,” Rubes said. “We wanted to get a win here, and I think now we can come away with some confidence and just focus on getting another one for us tomorrow.”
Next week, Perth Thunder takes on the Mustangs in Melbourne, while the Bears host the North Stars on Sunday in Penrith. Check www.theaihl.com for game times, rink addresses, ticketing and more information.