|Ruthless Mustangs snatch maiden Goodall Cup
The MOAT: Melbourne Mustangs are the 2014 AIHL Goodall Cup champions after trouncing the Melbourne Ice 6-1 at the Medibank Icehouse on Sunday afternoon.
It was a derby for the ages. Melbourne Ice were three-peat champions from 2010-2012 and perennial finalists, while the Mustangs were making the club’s first ever AIHL finals appearance in its four-year history after finishing the 2014 season on top of the standings. But it wasn’t the Yarra Cup that was being battled for; it was the ultimate prize up for grabs.
Swedish import Viktor Gibbs-Sjödin was the star of the day, scoring a hat trick and an assist to tally eight points from five goals and three assists, while line mate Jamie Bourke caused headaches, picking up a goal and three assists to finish the weekend with three goals and five assists.
Mustangs’ goalie Fraser Carson made 29 saves in a clutch performance, denying the repeated efforts of the potent and experienced Ice forwards and proving, yet again, that local goalies can win the Cup. The last import goalie to win the comp was Pekka Kankaanranta for the Sydney Bears in 2007.
Carson’s performance vindicated the decision by Mustangs’ management to stick with a local goalie – rather than using a valuable import slot like most other clubs this season.
“[Fraser Carson] was just unbelievable,” Mustangs coach Brad Vigon. “He was obviously in the zone today. He was tracking pucks really well; he was seeing through crowds; his angles were there; and he was making some difficult saves but making it look very easy which is when you know that a goaltender is in the zone.”
The Mustangs drew first blood at midway through the first period when Gibbs-Sjödin faked a wrap-around before cutting across the nearside crease and stabbing it past Ice netminder Jaden Pine-Murphy.
With just nine shots between the two sides in the first period, both teams were trying to establish rhythm after overcoming the inevitable early jitters of playing in the Goodall Cup final in front of a sold out crowd.
Ice coach Brent Laver said his charges failed to find their natural rhythm.
“I think there was the five or six minutes of real grand-final, huge-crowd jitters at the start and once the rhythm of the game kicked off I just don’t think we settled into our rhythm,” Laver said. “And a lot of that has probably got to do with [the Mustangs’] energy, they were able to wrestle momentum away.”
A drawn-out delay early in the second period after referee Rick West was felled with a face laceration that required stitches was quickly put out of mind when Gibbs- Sjödin found Jamie Bourke on the stretch pass who buried it passed the blocker side of Pine-Murphy at a matter of seconds after play resumed.
Just over a minute later Gibbs-Sjödin capitalised on a Jamie Bourke rebound to pick up his second of the game and increase the Mustangs’ lead to a formidable 3-0.
Pat O’Kane extended the lead to 4-0 before the end of the second and the Mustangs could taste victory.
Any hopes of a miracle Ice comeback were crushed within a minute of play in the third when Gibbs-Sjödin buried his hat-trick goal which, combined with his three point semi-final effort, earned him the Skaters Network Finals MVP.
The Ice were able to get one on the board and deny Carson a grand final shutout when captain Lliam Webster scored early in the third.
But the Mustangs celebrations had already started in the crowd when Andrew Belic deflected a Vinnie Hughes shot from the point for the final 6-1 scoreline and ensure that the orange and black would hoist the Goodall Cup for 2014.
Mustangs coach Brad Vigon – who was an assistant coach at the Ice for their 2010 and 2011 championships – was excited to see his squad play what he dubs ‘Mustangs Hockey.’
“The guys were almost like animals tonight, they were hungry animals and they were chasing down every puck and they were putting their bodies on the line, they were [disciplined] and even killing penalties,” Vigon said. “It was fantastic. The guys are really buying in, everybody was on the same page, everybody was pulling for each other, there was no egos, no selfish players, everybody just bought into [Mustangs hockey].
For Mustangs captain Sean Jones, it’s been a whirlwind few seasons for the ‘Stangs, clawing their way off the bottom of the ladder.
“If you said three years ago that we were going to win the cup people would have laughed at you - we finished bottom of the table,” he said after the game. “I remember playing in Canberra and they were throwing wooden spoons at us as we left the stadium. If you had have said after that, that in two seasons we’d be holding [the Goodall Cup] people would have laughed at you. We’ve worked hard, worked as a team, down to every single guy that sits on that bench or in the stands – the guys that push the tempo at training – that is why we’ve been able to come so far in such a short time.”