Saturday, August 29, 2015 - Submitted by Bianca Gibson
The Newcastle North Stars have come-from-behind to defeat the CBR Brave in an instant classic in the first semi-final of the 2015 AIHL Finals presented by Air Canada at the Medibank Icehouse.
Down 3-1 with just under 12 minutes remaining in the match, the AIHL’s leading point-scorer Geordie Wudrick stood up, claiming a final period hat-trick for the minor premier North Stars.
"Geordie's, Geordie," said a relieved North Stars coach Andrew Petrie said. "He's phenomenal...he's got another gear and it'll be interesting to see him show that tomorrow."
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Brave, who lead for all but the last 71 seconds of the game.
"We didn't come far enough," Brave's head coach Josh Unice said. "Our season's over."
Despite taking an early penalty, the Brave flew out of the gates, with Kelly Geoffrey dangling and beating everyone, including the North Stars’ Dayne Davis to claim the first goal shorthanded.
History repeated itself at the halfway mark of the period with Blunden scoring a similar goal to the first, giving the Brave a surprise 2-0 lead.
The North Stars weren’t the minor premiers for nothing and continued to push for the remainder of the first but were unable to crack the exceptional Brave defence.
The Brave extended the lead to 3-0 early in the third through Blunden’s second and looked to be set to book a place in the AIHL Grand Final.
When Robert Malloy pulled one back for the North Stars after a scramble in front of net, the score was still 3-1 and the Brave were well in control.
Although there was an extended stoppage towards the end of the second period with the Brave’s Tomas Manco bleeding from an accidental stick, the score remained 3-1 at the final break.
The sides were evenly matched throughout the third but with the season on the line, the North Stars’ Geordie Wudrick showed what he was made of.
After defencemen blocked a barrage of North Stars shots, the Canadian import slotted his first by sneaking a quick release through Toivonen’s pads.
Wudrick scored a second with five minutes remaining, slotting the puck in the tiniest gap over Toivonen’s blocker, tying the scores and giving fans hope there may have been golden goal overtime to decide the winner.
However, with just 71 seconds remaining, a breakdown after a face-off gave Wudrick the puck at a tight angle, with the goal-scoring champion slotting the winner and sending the North Stars back to the AIHL Grand Final.
Needing a huge final period fight back, Petrie praised his team for coming back, noting the struggles earlier in the game after winning the shot count 38-20.
"We just couldn't put that puck in the net," he said. "It was very, very stressful."