The 2023 AIHL Finals series is just a few days away, with the final 4 set to do battle for a chance to hoist Australian hockey’s ultimate prize, the Goodall Cup. As the day draw closer, we take a look at the match-ups heading into the finals weekend.
Sydney Bears vs Melbourne Mustangs (Saturday, 26th August @ 2pm AEST)
This is a rematch of the 2022 semi-final where the Bears eliminated the Mustangs in a 7-3 victory, before losing 4-3 to eventual runners-up Newcastle in an overtime thriller. The Bears are looking for their 4th Goodall Cup in their 12th trip to the finals since their inception in 2000, last taking the title in 2019 over the Perth Thunder in Newcastle. The Bears finished on top of the Hellyer Conference with a record of 21-5 for 60 points, recording the most regulation wins out of any team despite incurring a 3-point deduction during the season.
Ace Cowans spearheaded the Bears attack in 2023, finishing with 43 points (15G, 28A) in 20 games. He got plenty of support from 200-game veteran Tomas Landa (26G, 16A), Josh Lammon (10G, 24A) and Thomas Steven who posted a career-high 42 points (22G, 20A) in 26 games. Marc McNulty chipped in with 25 points (10G, 15A) from the blue line.
Anthony Kimlin again led the AIHL goaltending race this year in his 8th season in the league, posting a 16-2 record with a save percentage of .921%. In his 18th season, veteran Adrian Esposito became the Bears’ all-time leader in games played this year with 306, surpassing AIHL legend Vlad Rubes’ record of 299 on July 15th against the Mustangs.
The Melbourne Mustangs are aspiring to add to their lone 2014 Goodall Cup in their 5th trip to the post-season since 2011, after falling to the Bears at the first hurdle in last year’s finals. The Mustangs made their way into the final four after dispatching newcomers Brisbane Lightning 8-3 in the play-in round, following a regular season record of 17-7 with two overtime wins.
Scott Timmins became the first ever Mustang to win the AIHL scoring title with 82 points (33G, 49A) in his second year for the team, with blue liner Ty Wishart just behind him in 4th place with 60 points (16G, 44A). Chris Lawrence rounded out the offence with 49 points (20G, 29A) in 20 games, while Thomas Flack had a stellar year in 2023 in his second season with the club, posting 35 points (18G, 17A).
Liam Hughes led the way between the pipes for the orange and black, posting a 14-4 record with one shutout and a save percentage of .916%. The Mustangs had the most short-handed goals (13) in the league this season, thanks to a penalty kill unit of Timmins, Wishart and Lawrence that essentially acted as a third power-play unit.
The Bears and Mustangs met four times during the regular season in 2023, with the Sydneysiders coming out victorious on three occasions and taking the season series. The last meeting for the season being a 4-2 victory for the Bears at the Icehouse on 22nd July. This will be only the second time these two teams have met in the post-season.
CBR Brave vs Perth Thunder (Saturday, 26th August @ 6:30pm AEST)
The defending champion and favourite CBR Brave are hoping to go back-to-back for the first time and take home the third Goodall Cup in the club’s history this weekend. The Brave have never missed the finals in seven straight years since entering the league in 2014, posting a 6-5 record in playoff games and were crowned champions in 2018 and 2022.
The Brave finished on top of the Rurak Conference and again captured the H Newman Reid Trophy, posting a league-best 20-4 record (2OTW), for 63 points – only fellow finalists the Sydney Bears had more regulation wins (21). The Brave scored more goals than anyone else in the league (170) eclipsing their previous club record of 161, while also conceding the fewest in 2023 (77).
Austin Albrecht finished second in the league scoring race this year, putting up 76 points (39G, 37A) in 19 games. He was duly supported by Felix Plouffe’s 64 points (20G, 44A) and Casey Kubara’s career-high 57 points (16G, 41A) in his 7th AIHL season. Returning Brave veteran Matt Harvey, posted career best numbers with 27 points (12G, 15A) in his first season back with the Brave since 2019.
Alexi Toivonen and Alex Tetreault again shared goaltending duties this season. Tetreault posted an undefeated record in 10 games started, including a shutout and a save percentage of .894%, while Toivonen went 11-4 with a save percentage of .892%. Returning to the AIHL after withdrawing from the 2022 season due to state border closures, the Perth Thunder are the only team at the finals without a Goodall Cup to their name. The side from the west are looking to secure their first title in their 7th trip to the post-season since entering the league in 2012, after a 4-1 win over the Northstars in Newcastle in the play-in round. That marked only their second post-season win (2-5) in AIHL finals history, both wins coming on Newcastle ice with their first victory in the semi-finals over the Northstars in the 2019 series, where they finished runners-up to the Sydney Bears. Perth finished third in the Hellyer Conference with a 17-8 record this year, including two overtime wins for 52 points.
Connor Jean led the team offensively this season with 48 points (20G, 28A) in 23 games, tallying at least a point in every game bar two. Jordy Kyros has enjoyed a career best year in his 10th AIHL campaign with the club, registering 36 points and punctuated by a career-high 20 goals. After reaching 200 AIHL games this season, Rob Haselhurst contributed another solid year on the Thunder blue line with 19 points (5G, 14A) while Kristian Stead has kept things strong between the pipes with a 12-4 record and a save percentage of .908%, despite only arriving mid-season. The Brave and Thunder only met twice this season, with both teams victorious in each other’s building. The Brave defeated Perth 7-4 on the 24th June at Perth Ice Arena, with the Thunder returning the favour a few weeks later on 15th July by downing the Brave 4-3 in the nation’s capital. While the Brave are cup favourites again, it’s worth noting three of their four regulation losses this year were to the Bears (twice) and the Thunder, with the Mustangs notching a shootout victory over CBR on 30th April.
My personal tip: Thunder to win their first Goodall Cup.
Tickets for the 2023 AIHL Finals are available at Try Booking or you can catch all the action live on AIHL.TV