|Mustangs hang on against Brave
The MOAT: Melbourne Mustangs have split the double-header with CBR Brave at the Medibank Icehouse, winning the Sunday game 4-3.
The score may not have been an accurate reflection of the actual game with the Mustangs firing 51 shots on Brave goalie Petri Pitkanen, while Fraser Carson was only faced by 15.
It was a critical game on Sunday for the MOAT: Melbourne Mustangs who were trying to avoid a three game losing streak, whilst CBR Brave sought to solidify top place with a series clean sweep.
But it was a fresh and hungry Mustangs outfit that took to the ice to exact revenge and despite a third period fight back from Brave, the Mustangs dominated the majority of play. Mustangs coach Brad Vigon was impressed with his team’s return to form.
“The guys were switched on right from the get go, they were just awesome,” Vigon said. “I mean even if we had lost today’s game I could sleep at night; I’d be very happy because I know we gave every single bit that we had and their goalie was unbelievable.”
The Mustangs got to work early, leveraging their fast finish the night before into a quick start, with Joey Hughes gaining the blue line and feeding it to import Jeff Grant who buried the Mustangs first only 89 seconds in.
But it was Jeff Grant who, at the opposite end of the ice, turned the puck over to Mathieu Ouellette who capitalised on the opportunity and levelled the scores at the first break despite the Mustangs outshooting CBR Brave 19-4.
A goalless second period was not without its excitement. The Mustangs fired a further thirteen shots on net, whilst the defensive pairing of Jack Wolgemuth and Jeff Grant stifled the Brave’s scoring opportunities.
Power play goals to Viktor Gibbs-Sjödin and Jack Wolgemuth early in the third period threatened to blow open the game and when captain Sean Jones buried a rebound off Pitkanen’s pads with less than 10 minutes remaining, the game looked all but over.
Mustangs captain Sean Jones was happy to get back on the scorebooks.
“There was a loose puck there and I was trying to get to it, and their d-man actually grabbed it and threw it in front of the net but I’ll take them any way I can get them at this stage,” the 10-year AIHL veteran joked after the game.
But Anton Kokkonen, fresh off a hat trick on Saturday, had other ideas when he beat Fraser Carson through the five-hole.
Stephen Blunden put the fans on the edge of their seats when he scored on the power play with two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
But, just as the Mustangs were unable to capitalise on their late chances on Saturday, the Brave fell agonisingly short of a game-tying goal.
CBR Brave assistant coach Dave Rogina rued the slow start to game two.
“We started out way too slow,” Rogina said. “We had a bad first period, a little bit better second period and then a better third period but we dug ourselves too big of a hole. Even though it was a 1-1 game, we just started out slow and didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”
Jamie Bourke’s empty net goal on the buzzer was waved off but the Mustangs had already succeeded in taking the win and reclaiming top spot of the AIHL standings.
However, Brad Vigon is wary that every win is now critical in the tight race to the playoffs.
“I feel like right now every game is like a playoff game because the race is so tight that if you drop one game you could end up out of the playoff picture just like that,” Vigon said.
Next week both teams only play on Saturday with the CBR Brave travelling to Sydney to take on the Sydney Ice Dogs on Saturday night at the Liverpool Catholic Club, while the Mustangs are at home at the Medibank Icehouse against the Sydney Bears.