Francis Drolet had a three-point night and the Newcastle Northstars took three points, after defeating the Melbourne Mustangs 4-1 at the O’Brien Icehouse on Sunday afternoon.
After being beaten by the Melbourne Ice the previous night, the Northstars were looking to salvage some points out of their final Melbourne trip for the year. Newcastle were already without Rob Malloy and Liam Manwarring but also lost Paddy Ward and Tomas Landa for the game, after they suffered injuries the previous evening against the Ice.
It was a back-and-forth opening period of play between the two teams, with both Charlie Smart and Kevin Nastiuk on point early between the pipes for their respective clubs.
Drolet and Sammy Banga both had great chances for the visitors early, but could not capitalise.
It would be Shane Southwood who opened the scoring for the Northstars when he managed to find a chink in Nastiuk’s armour, making it an early 1-0 lead to the visitors with 8:48 to go in the first. It was Southwood’s third goal for the season.
The Mustangs then lost Damian Bright and Parker Thomas on consecutive 2+10 penalties for checking from behind, temporarily depleting their defensive core with Troy Robertson also already out of the line-up.
The Mustangs managed to hold on despite the penalties and it ended 1-0 Newcastle at the end of the first, with shots 9-6 in favour of the Mustangs.
The Mustangs continued to pile on the offensive pressure on Newcastle at the start of the second. However, they could not add the finishing touch with both Jordan Owens and Christian Isackson unable to convert opportunities despite some great set-up play.
Newcastle then added a second, when Trey Phillips ripped a hard wrist shot that caromed off the post and then off of the back of Nastiuk and into the net, to make it 2-0 to the visitors with 11:48 to go in period two.
Hamish Powell added another goal three minutes later when he slipped in behind the Mustangs defence, putting a puck upstairs on Nastiuk and it was suddenly 3-0 Northstars. It was Powell’s third goal of the season and the 8th of his AIHL career.
The Mustangs were not helped by more trips to the penalty box and it would finish 3-0 at the end of the second. The Mustangs were well and truly on the backfoot and with some work to do to at least force the game to overtime.
The Mustangs got a spark when skipper Michael MacMahon managed to jam one past Smart in the Newcastle net with 9:35 to go. However, it was too little, too late by that stage and Drolet added an empty-net goal 56 seconds from time to give Newcastle three points out of a possible six from their Melbourne road trip.
It was the fifth loss in a row for the Mustangs and the fourth in a row at the O’Brien Icehouse.
Smart stopped 31 of 32 in the win while Nastiuk stopped 18 of 22.
The Northstars went 0/3 on the power play while the Mustangs went 1/7.
Northstars coach John Kennedy was happy to take the three points despite a depleted line up and a loss the night before.
"We played the way we needed to play to get the win. Obviously, the Mustangs put on a lot of pressure and Charlie Smart played a phenomenal game for us," Kennedy said.
"We tried to keep shots to the outside but we were able to execute on our team strategies which made the difference for us."
The Mustangs will host the Perth Thunder in a double header at the O’Brien Icehouse on 13th and 14th July, while the Northstars will play the Sydney Bears on Friday 12th July.