The Sydney Bears have won their first Goodall Cup since 2007, with a 5-2 defeat of the Perth Thunder in Newcastle on Sunday.
After avenging their 2018 overtime heartbreaker against the CBR Brave in the semi-final, the Bears completed their run with a come from behind win over the WA side in the championship decider, tallying 5 unanswered goals after trailing early in the first period.
After dispatching the Newcastle Northstars 3-2 the previous evening, Perth were playing in their first ever Goodall Cup Final following a string of semi-final losses since their inaugural AIHL season in 2012.
The Thunder got off to a great start on debut.
Louick Marcotte opened the scoring for the Thunder after he ripped a shot from the top of the left-hand circle, beating Anthony Kimlin for a 1-0 lead with 9:58 remaining in the first.
Kieren Webster continued his stellar season with the second Thunder goal just two minutes later, backhanding in a rebound off of a Kevin Veilleux point shot, to stun the Bears and give Perth an early 2-0 lead.
However, the Bears answered the bell at the end of the period.
Andrew Cox was shown the penalty box door for slashing with 1:31 to play in the first. Ben Breault then also took a seat 30 seconds later, leading to a 5-on-3 opportunity for the Bears. Adam Dauda jammed home a rebound off of a Danick Gauthier shot on the ensuing power play to reduce the margin to 2-1, before then setting up Jake Ratcliffe for his first of the game and the tying goal, with the score line finishing 2-2 at the first intermission.
Shots were 9-6 in favour of the Thunder at the end of a very even first period.
The Thunder had an early power play chance in the second period, after a holding penalty to Ryan Annesley, but failed to beat the goaltending of Kimlin, despite several quality shots on the Sydney netminder.
Dauda would then get his second goal of the game, burying a goalmouth scramble past Nico Viksten at the near post to give the Bears the lead 3-2 lead with 9:38 to go. Jeremy Brucker would inflict more pain on the Thunder moments later, when he slotted a tight angle rebound from a Michael Schlamp shot to give Sydney a 4-2 buffer with 8:52 remaining in the second.
Webster and Breault both had chances for the Thunder later in the second but could not convert, as the Bears took the middle of the ice away from the Perth offence. Marcotte had an excellent chance late in the period, only to be denied by Kimlin’s glove.
Sydney went into the second intermission 4-2 up and had 9 fingers on the Goodall Cup.
The Thunder threw everything they had left at the Bears in the third, with Thunder coach Dave Ruck changing up his lines in the hopes of sparking his team.
A tripping penalty on Tyrell Clare gave the Thunder a power play opportunity with 15:34 to go but they failed to convert, as the Bears’ penalty kill pushed them wide and kept shots to the outside.
The Bears frustrated the Thunder through the neutral zone and took their transitions away for the majority of the period. Perth had one final power play opportunity after a delay of game penalty on Kimlin with 5 minutes remaining, but again the Thunder were stonewalled by both Kimlin and the Bears penalty kill, which was perfect on all three penalties. The Thunder pulled Viksten in the final minutes for the extra attacker but to no avail, as Dauda added an empty-net goal to seal a 5-2 win and the Goodall Cup for Sydney for the first time since 2007.
Kimlin stopped 26 of 28 shots in the win while Viksten turned aside 24 of 28 at the other end.
The Bears went 2 for 2 on the power play, while the Thunder went 0 for 3 with the man advantage.
Bears’ forward Danick Gauthier was named MVP of the finals.
The triumph reversed the overtime heartbreak of 2018 when the Bears went down to the Brave in Melbourne and the third oldest active trophy in hockey will return to the Bears’ den for the first time in 12 years, giving the club it’s third AIHL championship.
It is technically the 4th Goodall Cup win for the Sydney Bears, as the Cup was contested separately in a post-season tournament in Newcastle in 2001, won by the Bears against state teams and the pre-AIHL instalment of the current Newcastle Northstars. The Adelaide Avalanche won the AIHL in 2001 but were not awarded the Goodall Cup.
Michael Schlamp, Adrian Esposito and Vlad Rubes all claimed the cup again and are the last remaining Bears from the 2007 victory in Penrith, where they also came from 4th spot to claim the Goodall Cup. It was also the second Goodall Cup for Kimlin, Brian Funes and Bears’ coach Ron Kuprowsky, who had all hoisted it in 2013 for the Sydney Ice Dogs.
The win is also extra sweet for the Bears, in the context of all the off-season drama regarding the potential demolition of Macquarie and not knowing if they would have an arena to play in this season and beyond.
Bears’ defenceman Brian Funes was elated with the win and praised a complete team performance.
“Everyone did their bit, everyone pitched in, everyone worked hard right down to the end from Saturday when the puck dropped to when the final buzzer went,” Funes said.
“Everyone stepped up and did their bit. I’m so proud of everyone here, the staff, the fans and everyone who supported us through the whole season.”
Bears’ captain Michael Schlamp, who missed most of 2019 with a knee injury, was extra appreciative of the championship win.
“It’s awesome. We came close last year and lost in overtime. We really wanted some redemption this year and the boys played awesome this weekend. It’s unreal,” Schlamp said.
“It’s extra sweet for the old boys like myself, Vladdy and Espo and the memories of 2007 when we last won it.”
“Newcastle is where I started my AIHL career a long, long time ago so it’s a pretty sweet place to win it for me.”
The Bears will return to Macquarie on Monday with the Goodall Cup in tow and another championship banner to add to the previous two.