Sunday, August 2, 2015 - Submitted by Ryan Darnley
The Newcastle North Stars ground out an incredibly hard-fought 3-2 victory over the Sydney Bears at the Penrith Ice Palace on Saturday night.
With the North Stars claiming the win, they furthered their minor premiership credentials while the Bears’ finals dreams are now in the hands of other teams according to import forward Joseph Harcharik, as they are still locked in the four-way battle for fourth on the AIHL ladder.
“There’s always a possibility of getting in,” Harcharik said. “The difficult bit now is we have to rely on some other teams to help decide our fate.”
North Stars coach Andrew Petrie also had plenty of praise for his defence post-game, especially with the Bears desperate for a win and the North Stars ensuring a scoreless final period.
“Defensively, guys were sacrificing,” Petrie said. “We had good sticks in lanes, we had bodies in lanes; I’m really, really proud of the boys.”
The opening period saw the ladder leaders come out with all guns blazing, despite of the recent departure of goal-scoring leader Luke Moffatt.
The Novocastrians surged ahead shorthanded courtesy of Robert Malloy with barely three minutes gone, and added a second at the close of the period, with rookie Patrick Nadin slotting past Kamil Jarina in the Bears net.
Petrie recognised his team’s first period dominance, but also gave them fair warning at the intermission of what to expect.
“I thought it was all us in the first period,” Petrie said. “I said to the boys after [the first period], they’re going to come at us; their season was on the line. They’re going throw everything but the kitchen sink – I think they even brought that with them.”
It appeared to be fairly prophetic despite the Bears conceding a third goal through Scott Swiston on the power play midway through the period.
Less than a minute later after the Swiston goal, the Bears increased second period pressure paid off, with Richard Tesarik slotting the Bears’ opening goal.
This was followed by a Joseph Harcharik goal at the close of the period to bring the two teams into the final period split by only one goal.
The final period saw the Bears play with more fluid passing and goal attempts than seen possibly all season, with Newcastle holding immensely strong in defence to maintain their slender margin.
This epitomised the final period, no goals but plenty of opportunities, plenty of blocks and plenty of saves from North Stars’ net minder Dayne Davis.
Bears forward Joseph Harcharik was keen to recognise Davis as the key to the Newcastle win.
“We had a lot of good chances at the end,” Harcharik said. “Their goalie made some great saves. We had a lot of good chances to score; it was just one of those nights where they wouldn’t go in.
“I thought overall we outplayed them, just a couple of bounces their way and they end up winning the game.”
Likewise, the Newcastle coach waxed lyrical about the Bears’ performance, clearly leaving Penrith impressed by their spirited display.
“The [final] thirty minutes of the game, the pressure they put on us; if they did that every game week in week out, they’d be far higher up the ladder,” Petrie said. “I don’t know if the Bears can play any better than that and we managed to leave their building with a 3-2 win.”
Asked about finals chances, Petrie was quick to point to the first goal for his team, stating “we want to focus on finishing first on the ladder; that’s our first mission.”
The Finals picture will be slightly clearer next week with the North Stars heading to Adelaide to play the Adrenaline in a double header, while the Bears stay in Sydney, taking on the Mustangs on Saturday and Ice on Sunday.