Article by Chris Bowen
Ice vs Stampede:
The first game of the inaugural Trans-Tasman Champions League was over about as quickly as it started. The Melbourne Ice ran away with a more than convincing 12-2 win over New Zealand side Southern Stampede.
Playing in front of their home fans, the Ice put on an absolute clinic.
Joey Hughes had 3 goals and 4 points while Matt Armstrong had 2 goals and 6 points. The home side proved to be too good for the New Zealanders and showed just how deadly they can be offensively, seemingly turning every opportunity into a goal
The New Zealand outfit struggled to adjust to the Ice’s up-pace tempo, aggressive game style and especially with the physical side of play.
However, not all was bad for the Stampede. The play of Joel Cleroux on the blue line was something to be pleased with if you are a Stampede fan. He wasn’t afraid to get more than involved in the physical side of things, not missing an opportunity to dish out a hit to any Melbourne Ice forward that came his way. Subsequently Cleroux was voted the Stampede’s player of the game.
The Ice never seemed to lose control of the game and the scoreboard reflected that in a big way. The home side piled on 5 quick goals during the first period and never let up from there on in, adding another 3 goals in the second frame and then piling on a further 4 in the last. It was clear from the outset that this Southern Stampede side was not the one that had performed so well in the NZIHL last season. They seemed intimidated and slow to respond to what the home side were doing, especially struggling to deal with forwards Jason Baclig and Matt Armstrong who made the Stampede defenders look absolute beginners at times during the game.
The goal scorers for the Ice were: Joey Hughes with 3, Matt Armstrong with 2 and Jason Baclig, Doug Wilson, Mitch Humphries, Martin Kutek, Tommy Powell, Greg Sturrock and Chris Wong all with 1 apiece. Denman was rock solid in net.
For the Southern Stampede, both Brett Spiers and Simon Glass tailed goals.
Joey Hughes was named Player of the game for Melbourne Ice.
Ice vs Swarm:
The second day of the inaugural Trans-Tasman Champions’ League saw the
Melbourne Ice, last year’s AIHL champions, play the Botany Swarm, last year’s NZIHL champions, in the final game of the tournament.
After the first game yesterday, which saw the Melbourne Ice single-handedly dismantle the Southern Stampede 12-2, many didn’t give the Botany Swarm a chance after comparing their 2012 NZIHL season results to the Stampede’s.
However, the Swarm came out and proved their skills against the Newcastle
North Stars in their match-up, pushing the AIHL team all the way, eventually falling 6-3.
As soon as the puck dropped, the side that is currently last in the NZIHL standings showed us just how they won the title last season. They were slick, organized and not prepared to back down or be intimidated by Melbourne Ice¹s physical game style. Definitely not playing like a side that is sitting at the bottom of the table.
The Swarm jumped out of the blocks early and grabbed a 1-0 lead thanks to
Michael Attwell sending the home crowd into a moment of stunned silence. The crowd was shortly awoken after Matt Armstrong found the back of the net to tie up the game. Moment’s later, big defender Todd Graham gave the Ice the lead after beating Swarm goalie Zak Nothling with a wrist shot on the power play.
The momentum soon took a swift turn after a scary moment for all on hand, when Botany forward Joshua Hay was hit into the bench stanchion accidentally by Matt Armstrong, knocking out Hay and leaving blood on the ice. Hay was slow to get up and immediately went to the change rooms, shortly after being sent to hospital. Armstrong received a 5 minute major penalty and was thrown out of the game. The Botany Swarm players responded in a strong way after the hit, tailing twice during the major penalty taking a 1 goal lead.
The Ice who went with goalie Dahlen Phillips fell behind further after Swarm forward Charlie Huber made it a 4-2 deficit. Phillips who has delivered a solid season so far for the Ice, struggled early on in this game, letting in 5 goals in the first half, but was backed up by his forwards after goals from Lliam Webster, Matt Korthius and Jason Baclig erased the Botany Swarm’s lead on two occasions.
Phillips played an outstanding second half, and kept the Kiwis scoreless after 10 minutes into the second period.
The equation was simple for the Melbourne Ice at the start of the 3rd frame.
Win by two or more goals and win the Trans-Tasman Champions League. The Ice took over the game completely, not wilting from the presence of the Swarm, ultimately throwing everything they had at them. Botany netminder Zak Nothling was having none of it. Nothling was being peppered by the Ice, with shots coming from every direction and it now seemed that Nothling would be the difference between the Ice winning and losing the tournament. Finally, the Ice found a way through him with Lliam Webster getting one past the tall Kiwi to give the home side a 6-5 lead. Phillips was a brick wall in net.
With 9:46 to go, Jason Baclig delivered for the Ice, just like he has for the last two seasons. It showed on the Botany Swarm bench, all of which looked exhausted and out of the match.
To the credit of the New Zealand side, they didn’t throw in the towel at any stage. The Melbourne Ice were just too strong and once Todd Graham scored on the breakaway with 5:39 to go, it was all but wrapped up for the home side.
Coach Watson and his side added yet another title to their name, in what has been a sensational last 24 months for the Melbourne Ice. Lliam Webster was named player of the game for Melbourne Ice.
The concept of this tournament is a real winner, which will only enhance the growth of both leagues; with international teams participating on their home ice and the homes of others. It will be intriguing to see how it pans out next year in New Zealand and to see how the Australian teams fare across the Tasman. The AIHL and NZIHL deserve the credit for organizing this event, but all the teams deserve much more for the way they performed over the weekend, making it such a fantastic weekend of hockey.