|Ice Dogs add Wilson Cup to growing trophy case
The Reach Crane Trucks Sydney Ice Dogs have added a new piece of silverware to their trophy cabinet, downing the Proski Newcastle North Stars 4-2 in the final of the Wilson Cup pre-season tournament at the Sydney Ice Arena on Saturday night.
Ice Dogs general manager Ron Kuprowsky said the return of the Wilson Cup was a good way to kick off the year.
“It was a good warm up for the season,” Kuprowsky said. “They [the North Stars] were obviously short staffed and didn’t have all their guys, while were looking at a couple of new guys so it was a good bit of fun.”
This was the first time the Ice Dogs had won the tournament, which returned after a five-year hiatus.
The Sydney-siders started strongly, scoring three in the opening period via Eric McKenna, Tyler Kubara and Simon Barg.
In a match where there were plenty of young guns getting a run for both teams, the imports proved vital for the Ice Dogs.
The North Stars answered the challenge and never gave up. It's a good sign for the future of the AIHL with upcoming Australian talent performing well for both sides.
Despite a nervous first 15 minutes, North Stars goaltender Josh Broekman showed himself to be capable back up to Harrison May, saving 17 shots in the final two periods.
Down 3-0 after one, the North Stars came back strongly, scoring 40 seconds into the second with Matt Wetini slotting a strong wrist shot through Dylan Burgess’ five-hole.
Burgess was strong for the Ice Dogs throughout the match, turning away multiple breakaway chances and making several sharp saves.
However, he was beaten again with 2.25 left in the second. The initial shot from North Stars captain Ray Sheffield was in slow motion as it came in through traffic before an opportune deflection off Burgess gave Sam Lammert a simple tap in.
The final period was all Newcastle as they controlled both possession and territory.
The Ice Dogs go-ahead goal came with 7.36 to play through Dan Lackey against the run of play. Unfortunately for the Novocastrians, they weren't able to convert some great opportunities, including a 71 second five-on-three power play with less than five minutes left.
Newcastle coach Garry Dore said that although the tournament was a bit of fun before the season began, the North Stars had come to win.
“The Wilson Cup is a bit of fun but it’s still a hockey game and it’s still a game to win,” Dore said. “The Dogs got the jump on us in the first period and we lost our way a little bit. However, in the second period, we came with a new game plan and came back with a few goals. Unfortunately, they got one more in the third and that hurt us but we had some good opportunities.”
“We had a couple of young guys and it was the first time they got a taste of the AIHL. It’s given them an opportunity to play before the season and see how they fend. Young Josh [Broekman], our local goaltender, had a great game tonight. It was great for him to get the opportunity to play some hockey [at this level].”
The North Stars campaign begins next weekend against the newcomers the CBR Brave and are set to have imports Harrison May and Cody Danberg ready. Their final import, Chris Wilson, is due to fly in over the weekend and may be a late start but should be available by the teams’ April 26th match against Adelaide.
The Ice Dogs will face an away road trip against the two Melbourne teams in the first weekend of the season. They'll be missing four players including Todd Stephenson, Billy Cliff and Shannon McGregor to Australian duty, while Paul Baranzelli is still on holidays.
However, the Ice will be missing six players and Mustangs two (including starting goalie Fraser Carson) for their opening encounters.
The Ice Dogs are confident they have the advantage.
“We’ve been stung by [missing players] over the years and that was always our disadvantage over that opening weekend,” Kuprowsky said. “Someone commented on us losing our first game of the season every season but half of our guys weren’t there. Melbourne can feel that pain this year.”