Article by River Road Hockey (Jane Glatt and Chelsea Xavier)
Cover image – Pics by Wulos
Melbourne Ice v Sydney Ice Dogs – Semi-Final
On Saturday the Melbourne Ice played their semi-final against the Sydney Ice Dogs. The final score of 6-2 in the Melbourne Ice’s favour reflected the fact that the Ice dominated from the outset. Despite the Dogs’ attempts to provoke the Ice into a more penalty-heavy style of play from the second period onwards, the Ice kept their eyes on the real goal: a place in the Grand Final. They’d won it almost as soon as the game began.
The Melbourne Ice played a different tactical game in the finals to the one they’d played for most of the regular season. From being a physical team who laid big hits, they went to a game of control and finesse, mostly playing the puck and not the body. It was a change that the Ice Dogs couldn’t counter, struggling from the outset as the Ice controlled possession, had a co-ordinated defense and an aggressive fore-check. Although the Ice attacked and skated hard during the first period, they stuck to short shifts to keep plenty of energy in reserve and combat the Ice Dogs’ notoriously aggressive play for the full three periods.
The Melbourne Ice scored their first goal a mere fourteen seconds into the first period, with Armstrong scoring after passing between Joey Hughes and Baclig. The Ice kept up relentless offensive pressure–there were shots on goal from the Ice at 14:37 and 13:52. the Ice Dogs managed to get a shot on goal 13:37, but Denman calmly covered the puck and it didn’t take long for the Ice to take control again. Joey Hughes scored another goal less than three minutes into the period (with assists from Baclig and Armstrong), and then Baclig set the seal on the Ice’s domination by scoring a third goal, assisted by Wilson and Powell.
The rest of the period expired without score, but that didn’t mean the Ice stopped trying. Korthuis got the puck after a poke-check and shot on goal, but Robledo blocked with a pad save. Erzen got a break-away, but his shot was blocked by a Dogs player. The Dogs stepped up the pace, about halfway through the period, but to no avail. Sturrock performed an amazing poke-check on Dogs player Mignone, dancing around two Dogs players–it actually looked like for a moment like Mignone didn’t realise he’d lost the puck. The Dogs (Baranzelli) got a penalty for slashing with 1:05 left to go in the period, so the Ice started the 2nd period on the powerplay.
The Dogs appeared really shaken in the second period. Their fore-check just about completely disappeared. The penalty to Baranzelli had all but expired when the Dogs got another penalty, this time to Manco for holding. The Ice took less than thirty seconds to capitalise on that, with Tommy Powell scoring, and Webster assisting. 4-0 to the Ice. But the Dogs rallied–White scored an unassisted goal just under four minutes into the period, and the Dogs further pressured Denman into a split-pad save. The Dogs had at least avoided a shutout, but they seemed to know that a win was out of their reach.
Webster got a penalty for holding, then 29 seconds later, Todd Graham was also sent to the box for high sticking. The Melbourne Ice’s penalty kill is still great, though, and the Dogs failed to capitalise on the opportunity. They did step up their physicality, though, and made repeated attempts to provoke Joey Hughes and Matt Korthuis to fight. (To my amusement, the crowd largely responded with calls of “Stay out of it, Joey!” and “Get away from there, Joey!”) Joey kept his calm, but was still sent to the box for interference.
Then the Dogs’ Monaghan got 2 and a 10 for checking from behind. It was four on four hockey for another 22 seconds, when Graham got a penalty, also for interference. 4-on-3 hockey, with the Ice being the man down. I was sure the Dogs were going to score, but even with the man advantage, they couldn’t keep possession. Korthuis scored while only four seconds remained on the two minute Dogs penalty, bringing the score to 5-1. The Ice killed the rest of the penalty successfully. Joey Hughes and the Dogs’ Baranzelli got simultaneous penalties for both slashing and boarding respectively, but other than that, the 2nd period expired without incident.
In the third period, frustrations began to tell on the Dogs, while the Ice regained their discipline. The Ice also hit the line blender a bit, and gave the kid line more ice time, an opportunity they used to perform admirably. The Dogs continued in their attempts to draw Ice penalties, but the Ice refused to respond and Dogs’ McGregor headed to the box for roughing after face-washing Joey Hughes and knocking his helmet off.
The Dogs Tesarik (with an assist from Monaghan) finally broke through and got a goal with 6:47 left in the period, bringing the scores to 5-2. It wasn’t the start of a come-back, though, as Baclig got the scores to 6-2 with an assist from Graham and Armstrong. The Ice eased back on their pace, while making sure they kept possession of the puck, just running down the clock. When the game ended, the Ice had clearly stamped their dominance, and in spite of finishing later than the North Stars, heading into Sunday with a chance to recover.
Both teams actually had the same number of shots on goal, but the final score clearly shows the difference in goaltending. Denman looked confident and calm, whereas the Ice Dogs’ Robledo looked unsettled. He actually flinched at a number of shots, and more than that, exchanged words with Ice players in his frustration.
Personally, I looked forward to the North Stars game the next day with a great deal more optimism. The Ice proved that they could act with discipline and finesse, it was a beautiful thing to see.