It wasn’t so much Lliam Webster’s goal with 4.35 remaining in the final period that summed up the Melbourne Ice’s second consecutive Goodall Cup winning season, as what he did after it.
For the second time in as many days at the Northern End of the Medibank Icehouse Webster’s celebration involved skating at full pace into the glass directly in front of his father.
For the Ice the 3-2 victory over the Newcastle North Stars was the culmination of a season’s work that started last October, just weeks after the side’s first Goodall Cup victory.
Speaking on ice after being announced as the finals MVP Joey Hughes expressed how important the feeling of belonging is at the club.
“Within the boys, the feeling that we have right now, you have to earn it, you can’t buy it.”
And earn it they did.
Despite having a 2 goal buffer with the clock winding down late in the period Peter Cartwright brought the Ice fans back down to earth with a piercing shot that easily beat Stu Denman, with just on two minutes remaining.
With Matt Ezzy out of the net and the seconds dwindling into single digits Newcastle had the puck in a great position to poach a goal, yet were unable to find a way through.
Newcastle came into the game highly fancied by many on the back of Brian Bales, Cartwright and Justin Chwedoruk all amassing at least 50 points throughout the regular season.
It was Cartwright who struck first for the visitors after just under seven minutes had elapsed in the first period.
With the Ice finding themselves trailing early for the second time in as many games they were given a chance to rebound quickly as they had the man advantage under a minute later.
Matt Armstrong pointed to the fighting spirit of the Ice as a key factor in not falling further behind.
“It was frustrating,” noted Armstrong, “There were times in the first period where we weren’t able to shut the door and we just had to work through it.”
The powerplay, as it had all year for the Ice presented difficulties and Newcastle’s penalty kill unit denied them any chance of an equaliser.
With both teams looking likely to score on every blue line entry Matt Armstrong was the next to hit the target, which left the scores tied at the end of the first period.
With Don Champagne coaching his last game for the Stars, they started the stronger of the two, peppering Stu Denman’s goal in the opening exchanges of the second period.
It wasn’t long before Melbourne found themselves in the lead for the first time with Jacques Perreault using the open Ice to pick out Joey Hughes, who was able to calmly slot the puck past Ezzy.
Both sides continued to mount pressure across the blue line, yet Denman and Ezzy continued to show what they have been the top two keepers within the national setup for the last six years.
True to form the North Stars came out firing in the last period, with both Bales and Cartwright going close to getting the Novocastrians back on level terms.
As time expired the Ice became a sea of helmets, sticks and gloves as the Ice celebrated victory in what many are describing as the greatest AIHL game of all time.