A breakaway goal from defenceman Jan Safar in overtime has rocketed the CBR Brave in to their first ever Goodall Cup final as they defeated the Melbourne Ice 4-3 in a thrilling overtime semi-final at O'Brien Group Arena.
The fourth-placed Brave entered the game as underdogs against the highly-fancied Ice fresh off a record breaking regular season, and the two teams exchanged blow after blow in a tight contest throughout the evening.
Having just served a penalty in the overtime period, Safar stepped out of the box and found himself on a breakaway against Troy Davenport after a great pass from Geordie Wudrick, and duly put a high shot over Davenport’s glove to end Melbourne’s record-breaking season at the semi-final.
Wudrick tallied two goals to go with the assist in the overtime goal, and CBR Brave coach Artem Bidlevskii, couldn’t speak highly enough of the big forward.
“He’s a savage,” Bidlevskii said. “The AIHL knows him, everybody knows what he can do and in these situations, and this is where he steps up and plays his best hockey.”
The Ice had some late drama of their own, with Lasse Lassen tying the game in dramatic fashion with only 1 min 25 seconds left on the clock to force the overtime period, and Bidlevskii was pleased with his team’s ability to absorb the Melbourne Ice’s momentum and come out with the win.
“We knew that not everything would go our way,” Bidlevskii said. “We’ve preached that all week long that in a hockey game there’s ups and downs and we have to keep battling, and they got the job done.”
Melbourne Ice head coach Brent Laver, was left to lament an opportunity lost.
“That’s the cutthroat nature of the League,” Laver said. “You give everything and it comes down to a weekend and an overtime.”
The Brave took the early lead in the contest with Safar capitalizing on a 2-on-0 opportunity against Davenport after the Ice defence mishandled the puck at their own blue line.
The Ice left it until the final 30 seconds of the period to level the scores at 1-1, with Lassen scoring his first of the night on the power play.
The second period seemed to stagnate briefly as the two teams battled for supremacy, but it was Joey Hughes who broke the tie, giving the Ice a 2-1 lead with four minutes left in the second period.
The Ice then found themself in penalty trouble late in the period when Geordie Wudrick used the five-on-three opportunity to level the scores with just 13 seconds left in the second period.
Wudrick then handed CBR the lead on the power play with just over five minutes left in the third, and Lassen seemed to have tied the scores at 3-3 when his shot hit the back of the net, but play wasn’t stopped at first.
Play continued for another 40 seconds before the referees conferred and decided the puck had crossed the line, with the Ice leveling the scores in the final two minutes.
Safar’s overtime goal sees the Brave into their first Goodall Cup final, and Artem Bidlevskii says he’s looking forward to the reward that brings his team and the CBR faithful.
“It’s a whole team effort. We’ve got management and sponsors on our side, the coaches, the leaders, every single person that puts on that jersey,” Bidlevskii said. “We have a lot of Brave hearts in the stands, it’s great to see them celebrate a victory for the first time in a final, and hopefully we can do it again tomorrow.”
The Brave play the winner of the Newcastle North Stars and Perth Thunder semi-final for a chance to win the Goodall Cup on Sunday.