The Perth Thunder have extended their winning streak and solidified their position within the final four teams, with a 5-1 win at Perth Ice Arena on Saturday. The win puts them 5 points clear of 5th place, and will hopefully continue the success they have found into the final fight for the Goodall Cup in two weeks time.
The game was a crucial one for both sides, both of whom are jostling within the standings for an opportunity to make finals, and avoid playing the league’s most dominant team in the CBR Brave.
With the win, the Thunder have secured points in 11 of their last 14 games and, after a shaky start to the year, have been one of the most successful teams in the league during the second half of the season.
The game saw a continued run of form for Louick Marcotte, who has put up 19 points in his last 5 games, to put his total (56) now among the league’s leaders. Despite the import having had only three goals in his first 10 games with the team, his 14 goals in the last 10 games has helped boost the Thunder’s offence and bolstered production up and down the line-up.
Secondary scoring helped the Thunder win their most important game to date this year, with Lyndon Lodge, Sean Tobin, and Andrew Cox all contributing offensively to secure the win.
Thunder goaltender Nico Viksten’s 30 saves was also a factor in the win, despite Anthony Kimlin making several huge saves throughout the contest.
The game remained close for the majority, and regardless of the 5-1 final score line the Thunder entered the third period with only a two-goal lead. A solid twenty minutes of hockey was needed to close it out, in what was described by captain Jamie Woodman as one of their most complete performances so far this season.
“Today we had one of the best games I think we’ve played all year, it just seemed like everyone was just connecting passes and it was easy to find guys out there. It just feels like we are finally starting to consistently play the way we have wanted to play all year, and it’s important for us to feel that confidence heading into finals,” Woodman said.
With the locals chipping in on the scoreboard, it was quickly 4-0 with less than ten minutes to go. Viksten couldn’t find the shutout after a late goal from Jake Ratcliffe, off of a laser like cross-ice pass from Tyrell Clare. However, Viksten showed the compete level needed for a chance at the club’s first ever Goodall Cup Finals appearance.
Head coach Dave Ruck felt like he is finally starting to see a resemblance of what he hoped to achieve right from April, when this group came together.
“The controversy that came with the difficult start we had this year has really brought this team together. I think to go through the lows we did and battling back to get to this point has really made guys buy in to the expectations that we have for this team,” Ruck said.
“This year we have had to battle right down to the wire and we haven’t really relied on the teams around us to get us where we are now. Right now our mental focus has been better and we want to work on just playing the game we know we have to play to find success.”
The Bears will now have to set their focus on winning the last Battle of Sydney as they take on the Ice Dogs on Friday night, before finishing off their season against the Adrenaline. The team will look to win both those games in the hopes of either keeping themselves in 4th place ahead of the Mustangs, or re-taking third from the Thunder.
The Thunder will play the Melbourne Ice in Melbourne to close out the regular season, and those games could still play a crucial role in their finals outlook as they need only one win to officially clinch a Goodall Cup Finals spot.