The Newcastle Northstars hosted their first game of the 2021 ice hockey season on Sunday 9 May, going down 8-4 against the CBR Brave in the McCormack Cup game.
First to score, the Canberra team never gave away their lead despite several counter-attacks from a young Newcastle squad. The Brave had two goals on the board from Mike Giorgi and Captain Matt Harvey before the Northstars’ player/coach John Kennedy Jr got one back on the power play, putting the home side just one short at the end of the first period.
In the second period, the flow of penalties reversed and two 5-3 advantages for the Brave had the Northstars down 5 goals to 3 at the end of the second period, with Darge, Dawes and Christensen scoring for CBR, while Landa and Malloy kept the score respectable going into the final period.
In the final period, the Brave continued their domination, outscoring the Northstars 3 goals to 1, finishing the game ahead with 8 goals versus 4.
Despite the loss, the Northstars coaching crew were as upbeat about the game as the Canberra staff were, with everyone delighted to have high-level ice hockey return following a long hiatus caused by the global pandemic.
CBR Brave’s GM Sunny Singh shared, “Everyone is feeling very positive, being the first weekend back in almost 600 days. It’s been a long time between drinks so it’s been really good to get back on the ice”.
For the Newcastle Northstars, the featuring of a new core of youth has added a fresh feeling to the team, with young members having the opportunity to be mentored into Australia’s top level ice hockey by veterans such as Robert Malloy, Tomas Landa and Tim Stanger.
Connor Schultz, Alistair Rye, Riley Tonks and Mackenzie Gallagher continued their Rookie development by returning to the AIHL team, while Ethan Hawes and Ethan Spelde played their first shifts of AIHL-level hockey.
Overall, Associate Coach Ray Sheffield was happy with his team’s effort on Sunday night, saying “I thought it was pretty good game - I mean, I don't think the score really reflected the play.
“It's kind of an exciting season for our team in general because it gives the young guys a chance to play, so hopefully we can bring the fans along with that excitement.”
Alex Tetreault returned to the goal crease for the Brave, and made a few spectacular saves on his 25 shots faced, giving up 4 goals.
At the opposite end, goalie Tom Munro returned to the Northstars after a 14 year absence, his last season being as backup to Matthew Ezzy in 2007. Monroe’s relocation to Newcastle after living in Melbourne for several years was a fortunate turn, with their previous starting goalies Dayne Davis and James Downie having left the region prior to the 2021 season.
Munro’s workload was considerably bigger than Tetreault’s, facing 33 shots while allowing 8 goals.
The McCormack Cup is presented by the AIHL for 2021, in an agreement between the New South Wales and ACT AIHL teams, in a limited competition following the AIHL’s decision to not run a season for 2021 during the pandemic. The McCormack Cup provides the dual benefits of allowing national-league level ice hockey to be played during the pandemic, while giving the teams the opportunity to develop new and youth players to be ready for the return of a full AIHL competition in the next year or two.
Brave GM Singh was full of praise for the McCormack Cup competition, saying “I can't be happier for not just the fans but also the people behind the scenes – kudos to them and just to be able to pull something together in this environment is nothing short of fantastic, both a fan and as a GM”.
Under Coronavirus restrictions the Northstars were able to fill seats to 100% capacity, although without the extra numbers made up of general entry fans standing up against the ice.
The next home game for the Northstars will be on Saturday the 29 of May against the Sydney Ice Dogs at 5pm AEST.