The Melbourne Mustangs have snapped a 5-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Perth Thunder, at the O’Brien Icehouse on Saturday night.
In a fast-paced and at times chippy game, the Mustangs were able to frustrate the Thunder forwards and hold on to the lead at each change to take the win.
The game opened with end-to-end hockey played at a high tempo, with no scoring until Melbourne tallied through Parker Thomas, with 5:43 remaining in the first frame.
Perth turned the pressure gauge up on Kevin Nastiuk early in the game but were unable to find a way past the Mustangs' netminder. Kevin Veilleux, Louick Marcotte and Ben Breault all had prime chances to score for Perth but were unable to capitalise.
Christian Isackson added another goal, his 8th goal of the season, with 43 seconds remaining in the period to make it 2-0 and allow the Mustangs to take an early lead and momentum.
Perth piled on the shots in the first period by a margin of 15-5, but were still scoreless where it counted.
The tide turned in the second for the Thunder, when Kieren Webster grabbed his 12th goal of the season to make it 2-1. Webster stole a puck on a sloppy clearing attempt inside the Thunder attacking zone by the Mustangs, and lifted it upstairs on Nastiuk to reduce the deficit to one.
Thunder captain Jamie Woodman tied the game two minutes later, when he finished a brilliant passing play by Veilleux to make it 2-2 with 7:48 remaining in the second period.
That was cancelled out when Vadim Virjassov raced in short-handed and snared his 13th goal of the year, drawing the Mustangs back into the lead to make it 3-2 with 2:50 to play.
The score would remain at that heading into the second intermission, with the Mustangs starting to find an extra gear.
The earlier chippiness went up in the third period and the Mustangs would capitalise, when Jamie Bourke doubled Melbourne's lead to 4-2.
Veilleux answered for Perth with a laser beam from the point just minutes later, to again bring the Thunder within one goal.
However, this was cancelled out by Thomas one minute later with his second of the game to make it 5-3 Melbourne. Bourke added another goal on the power play 1:32 from the end of the game, to seal the win for the Mustangs and give them a vital three points toward their 2019 campaign.
Nastiuk turned aside 23 of 26 while Viksten stopped 35 of 41.
The win was the Mustangs’ first since 2nd June over the Adelaide Adrenaline.
Mustangs’ coach Max Parent was pleased to get back in the win column and snap the skid.
“I think we played a very good game tonight. We were very aggressive on the puck and simplified things, that’s the kind of hockey we want to play,” Parent said.
“The past few games we lacked a bit of creativity and we weren’t generating that much offense, so it was good to switch the lines up a bit and also to have Pat O’Kane back in the line-up.”
Thunder coach Dave Ruck lamented Perth’s missed opportunities.
“We have to stay out of box and we have to bury our chances. We hit posts and missed rebounds and tips and had too many opportunities to score that we didn’t take,” Ruck said.
“We need a fast start and to play simple hockey in the next game.”
Both teams will face each other again at the Icehouse on Sunday afternoon at 2pm AEST.