|Melbourne Ice 2017 AIHL Champions
The Melbourne Ice have capped off a dominant 2017 season by defeating CBR Brave in a 4-1 thriller at O’Brien Group Arena and claim the Goodall Cup.
Perennial playoff contenders since they last raised the Goodall Cup in 2012, the Ice have been unable to convert regular season success into Finals success in recent years. In 2017 however, they rid themselves of any demons, taking the AIHL Minor Premiership with a record breaking season and claiming their fourth Goodall Cup.
Melbourne Ice Head Coach Charles Franzen reiterated the importance this championship breakthrough has been for the club.
“Getting through to Sunday was very, very important, very, very big for the club,” he said.
“It was a real tough game against ourselves yesterday. The Mustangs showed a lot of character and they played really good.”
Fast and furious first period
With the final puck drop of the season, both the Brave and Ice set about stamping their authority on the game. Both sides had their share of chances but it was the Ice who drew first blood. Chris Wong made the most of an opportunity when he finished a 2-on-1 rush counter attack to send a wrist shot between Aleksi Toivonen’s pad and blocker, to give the Ice a 1-0 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Chris Wong gets the Ice on the scoreboard first. Photo: Phil Taylor.
The Brave looked to equalise on the first power play of the night, with Lliam Webster holding, but were unable to convert. Both teams continued to probe and test the other but neither were able find the slot and the Melbourne Ice took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The CBR Brave took to the ice for the second period with purpose and looked to capitalise on the man advantage. Dayne Davis and the Ice defence stood tall on the penalty kill to deny the Brave an equaliser. With no love lost between the teams as some chippiness started to seep into game.
Determined to pull back to even footing, the Brave were rewarded with 7:23 left in period two: Dominic Jalbert cut off a wayward Ice pass and dished to Stephen Blunden to beat Davis clean and equalise the game, 1-1.
The Ice however were spurred into another gear, capitalising on a tired Brave defence with just 26 seconds left in the period, Sebastian Ottosson roofed a shot past Aleksi Toivonen to advance the Ice up 2-1.
Melbourne Ice Head Coach Charles Franzen called out the focused semi-final recovery strategy keeping his team fresh to compete against a side known for their dominant hockey style and skill.
“We know that they (CBR) played the later game (yesterday), which was not to their advantage of course because when their game was finished my guys were more or less in bed, they’d had their massage and dinner and everything,” said Franzen.
All or nothing final frame
Every fan knew in capacity crowd stadium at O’Brien Group Arena knew that the third period was going to be a barn-burner – and it didn’t disappoint. There was plenty of end-to-end hockey and huge hits that set the crowd alight.
The Ice’s Sebastian Ottosson punished the Brave for their defensive miscue and slotted a wrist shot past Toivonen to extend the Ice lead to 3-1 with 17:42 left in the third period and the crowd defeaning – in support by the Melbourne Ice crew and the traveling Bravehearts.
There followed a 10-minute battle of intense passing and defence. The break in end-to-end hockey came when the Ice forward Matt Armstrong walked in unmarked on Aleksi Toivonen and broke the hearts of Brave fans around the world as he put the Ice up 4-1.
The Brave continued to fight until the final horn, but once again Dayne Davis proved too staunch in the final line of defence and the three-point lead proved unassailable.
As the final seconds on the clock counted down the Melbourne Ice, with the puck in their defensive zone, threw their hands in the air and piled high around Davis in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
The game winning goal reaches up past Aleksi Toivonen's stick side. Photo: Matt Wragg.
Sebastian Ottosson named Most Valuable Player of the Finals
Ottosson, who hails from Sweden, was named the Most Valuable Player of the AHIL Finals weekend with three goals in two games. The award caps off a turbulent season for the star forward who returned from injury to take part in the Finals weekend.
Ice Captain Lliam Webster was full of praise for his team and credited the win to his side’s commitment and work ethic.
“Words can’t do it justice,” said Webster
“It’s the season we’ve been working towards for a long time and this is just the perfect finish.”
Lliam Webster, captain of the Melbourne Ice raises the Goodall Cup. Photo: Tania Chalmers.