CBR Brave punched their ticket to the AIHL Grand Final with a 5:1 demolition of the Melbourne Mustangs in the first semi-final, in front of a packed O’Brien Group Arena on Saturday afternoon.
A three-goal second period blew the game wide open for the Brave, which will see them face the Sydney Bears for the Goodall Cup after they bested the Perth Thunder 3:0 in the second semi-final.
Trevor Gerling opened the Brave’s account for the game on the power play after Vadim Virjassov was shown the door for high-sticking Kai Miettinen. Gerling one-timed a feed from Channing Bresciani past Aleksi Toivonen and it was 1:0 CBR with 11:44 to go in the first.
However, Gerling was then given a 10-minute misconduct penalty for celebrating the goal in front of the Mustangs’ bench and spent the rest of the period in the penalty box.
The Mustangs used this to their advantage and Pat O’Kane had a chance to level the scores moments later on a similar play, but he was denied point blank by Matt Hewitt.
Vadim Virjassov also had a great chance minutes later for Melbourne when he brought Hewitt to the ice and had everyone beat but the stick of Channing Bresciani, who cleared the puck off the goal line to maintain his side’s lead.
Casey Kubara then added a second for the Brave when he got the jump on Michael McMahon in a foot race and put a wide angle shot through the five-hole of Toivonen, to make it 2:0 CBR Brave despite being outshot 10:7 by the Mustangs in the first frame.
Things would get worse for the Mustangs when they had to begin the second period down to a 5-on-3, but their penalty-kill held firm and they were able to ward off a Brave surge.
However, it wouldn’t take long for the Brave to add to the Mustangs’ woes.
Gerling would get his second of the game on a short-handed opportunity when Nikita Kolenikovs broke his stick on a shot from the point. Gerling swooped on a loose puck, outskated Kolesnikovs and put a nice deke on Toivonen to make it 3:0 Brave with 10:12 to play in the second.
Brett Ferguson answered for the Mustangs a minute later, when he combined with Ben Davies to slip one past Hewitt to make it 3:1, and give the Mustangs some much needed momentum.
That momentum would not last long, as Kubara got his second of the game when he got around the Mustangs’ defence and broke in alone on Toivonen, roofing a shot past him and extending the Brave’s lead to three goals.
Mitch Humphries brilliantly set-up Jamie Bourke 20 seconds later but was stifled by the left pad of Hewitt. A save at one end led to a chance at the other, as Gerling would feed the puck to Matt Harvey on a resultant 2-on-1 and the Brave added another with one minute remaining in the period.
It was 5:1 Brave at the second intermission and the side from the ACT were almost home.
The Mustangs had two chances in the third period on the power play after penalties to Kai Miettinen and Wehebe Darge, but were unable to convert on either. Davies and Kolesnikovs both had chances for the Mustangs at even strength, but neither could get past Hewitt.
Neither team would add to their score line and the CBR Brave took the semi-final win 5:1, booking their third straight trip to the AIHL Grand Final.
Brave coach Rob Starke was pleased with his side’s performance.
“I think we had a strong start and got the momentum early,” Starke said.
“We kept to our processes and then in the second period we seemed to hit 5th gear and not let up.”
Starke was not fazed about his opposition in the Goodall Cup Final, but would make necessary changes to his game plan come 3pm Sunday afternoon.
“There will be some adjustments we will have to make and we have some templates ready to go but we won’t be changing much.”
The Brave will head to the AIHL Grand Final on Sunday against Sydney Bears, aiming to hoist the third oldest active trophy in hockey for the first time in the club’s existence.