Saturday, August 30, 2014 - Submitted by Bernard McNamara
The Melbourne Ice defeated the CBR Brave 6-1 in the second AIHL semi final at the Medibank Icehouse.
The win sets up an all-Melbourne final and an opportunity to take the local rivalry to a new level.
In Canberra’s first foray into AIHL semi-final action as either the Knights or the Brave, the Brave looked to extend what has been a fairytale season. Standing in the way was the highly favoured Melbourne Ice, who showed why they’re considered an AIHL powerhouse with a polished performance.
“Amazing win tonight for the boys,” said Melbourne Ice coach Brent Laver. “We set ourselves a goal and the game really went to script. We wanted to pressure on CBR early becuase we know they’re a dangerous team; they have three of the league’s top scorers. The guys were ready to rock tonight. They had great energy and they were ready to go early.”
CBR Brave captain Mark Rummukainen reflected on the missed opportunity for the CBR.
“6-1 isn’t how you want to lose a semi final,” Rummukainen said. “We came here to compete and the game got away from us in the end. Melbourne Ice is a quality team; they had a great game plan and we didn’t adjust quickly enough.”
Right off the opening faceoff the both teams had their foot on the gas, the first period was end-to-end action with both sides exchanging quality chances.
Melbourne Ice forward Tommy Powell got the home side on the board, when he deflected a shot from the point, to slide the puck under Petri Pitkanen, who was busy in net for the Brave, making 34 saves on the night. Powell was an offensive force for the Ice, finishing with four points (two goals, two assists).
With the Ice pushing hard and CBR on the back foot, Brave defenceman Matthew Harvey was called for roughing when he lashed out at an Ice forward with a late hit after a whistle. The Melbourne Ice power play was lethal on the night, and they wasted little time doubling the lead after Todd Graham deflected a Tommy Powell shot pass, making it 2-0.
The Ice extended the lead further in the second period when the Brave mishandled the puck on the blue line and a loose puck was picked off by Melbourne forward Tim Johansson. Johansson, fresh out of the penalty box set up a flying Matt Armstrong for a two-on-one opportunity with Armstrong burying the one timer and bringing the crowd to its feet.
However, the Brave answer right back through Stephen Blunden, who recorded his league-leading 37th goal for the season. His goal saw the lead reduced to two goals and gave the CBR fans who made the trek to Melbourne a glimmer of a comeback.
The Ice regained the three-goal lead when the power play struck again. This time Powell found a wide open Jeff Smith who finished off a slick passing play, to see the Melbournians take a 4-1 lead into the third period.
Ice captain Lliam Webster praised his side’s power play ability, converting four from five opportunities.
“I can’t fault anything, our power play has been pretty lethal all year and it went off tonight,” Webster said. “Right from the start we played a great game; we were focused on playing our game, which is good speed, good defensive coverage and making sure we bury our chances.”
With the Melbourne Ice leading 4-1 heading in the third period, the Brave pushed hard for an equaliser, however there were unable to beat Melbourne Ice goalie Jaden Pine-Murphy, who put in a stellar performance to record 22 saves on the night.
The Melbourne Ice power play added to CBR's woes with two more tallies to Tim Johansson and Tommy Powell for a final score of 6-1.
Despite the result, it was a great first season for the CBR Brave, finding the community rallying behind the team and making the finals in their debut season.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted but they guys have had a great season” said CBR assistant coach David Rogina. “You can’t take what they achieved this year. We’re had great fan support this season and it was great to see our fans cheering at the end of the game.”
For the Melbourne Ice, they are one win away from the capturing the Goodall Cup for the fourth time in five years. Standing in the way is a red-hot Mustangs outfit keen to add to Goodall Cup to the H Newman Reid Trophy in its trophy case.
Laver says his troops are fired up for the all Melbourne final.
“The Derby is going to be great, its great for the Melbourne and its great for the sport,” Laver said. “It’s really going to up a notch tomorrow.”
The Grand Final starts at 3pm on Sunday with the AIHL Awards to be announced 30 minutes before at 2.30pm.
3 Stars of the Game 1st star: Tommy Powell 2nd star: Petri Pitkanen 3rd star: Jeremy Brown