The Sydney Ice Dogs broke their AIHL hoodoo with their first regulation win since 2014, defeating cross-city rivals the Sydney Bears 6-2 at the Penrith Ice Palace in the season’s first Battle of Sydney on Sunday night.
The win ended a 19-game losing streak for the Ice Dogs and was all set up by a dominant first period with the Ice Dogs piling on four unanswered goals.
Kevin Harvey’s passing was on point, as he was able to lay the puck off to David Dunwoodie for the opener in front of net, before notching another assist as Paul Swindlehurst also capitalised on the power play, putting the puck past Bears’ goalie James Downie.
He found himself picking the puck out of the net twelve seconds later as Scott Stephenson got a stick to a bouncing puck in front to give the Ice Dogs a 3-0 lead.
For all the shots on net the Bears could muster, nothing seemed to be going in as they out-shot their rivals 14-10 in the first period, putting plenty of pressure on Charlie Smart in the Dogs’ net but failing to capitalise on their power plays.
It was the Ice Dogs heading in with a dominant lead though, with Grant Toumlin playing provider to Swindlehurst as they raced away down the left to send the Dogs’ in with a four-goal cushion at the first break.
Ice Dogs Coach Vlad Rubes said his side had been building towards a performance like this.
“I felt we have played well in all three games this year,” Rubes said. “Today we had a good start scoring some quick goals and that quick start helped us to be four goals up after the first and then the second and third, I think the goaltending made a big difference.”
Sydney Bears assistant coach, Steve Austin was a little disappointed after the game at how long it took the Bears to get going.
“You get down [by] three or four goals; it’s hard to get your troops to come back,” Austin said. “Our guys really weren’t sharp in the first period.”
As was expected, the game was played with a high level of physicality and intensity with seven minor penalties dished out in the second period.
It was on the last of four Bears’ power plays in the period that they capitalised; Geoff Irwin notching the only goal of the period with a snapshot from the blue line seven second before the break to bring the score line to 4-1.
Irwin’s late goal in the second seemed to have sparked some life into the Bears as they continued to test Smart in the Dogs’ net with plenty of shots early in the third.
However, it was Adam Kimbley that scored the game’s next goal as the Ice Dogs were able to capitalise on a goalmouth scramble with a poke in.
Remy Sandoy then closed out with a powerful blue line shot as the Bears’ struggled once more on the penalty kill.
Cameron Todd was able to notch a second goal for the Bears with five minutes remaining, but continually the Bears found themselves foiled by the Ice Dogs’ goaltender as they piled on the pressure to close out the game.
Rubes was glowing in his praise for Smart’s performance especially in the final two periods.
“Second and third, I think the goaltending made a difference – our goalie kept us in the game,” the Ice Dogs Coach said.
The praise wasn’t limited to the Dogs, with Bears assistant coach, Steve Austin equally impressed.
“The Dogs should be praised on their goalie tonight because he was on fire,” Austin said. “He was the player of the game for them.”
Looking forward to next weekend’s clash between the Sydney rivals, Rubes was keen to point out that he expects a different game.
“Next week will be a different game; Liverpool is a smaller rink so I’m expecting it to be a bit more physical, a bit more defensive and [more] a game of skill,” Rubes said.
Next week the Ice Dogs are at home, playing the North Stars on Saturday night, while the Bears are in Canberra to take on the Brave, before the teams renew hostilities in the second Battle of Sydney at the Liverpool Catholic Club Sports Complex.