|North Stars claim fifth Goodall Cup in OT thriller
The Newcastle North Stars have claimed their fifth Goodall Cup championship with a dramatic overtime penalty shot win over the Melbourne Ice at the Medibank Icehouse.
The 2-all score at the end of three periods of hockey showed just how close the teams were.
With fans braced for a dramatic finale with sudden death overtime, no one could have expected what would happen.
Deemed to have not had any defencemen in front of him Brian Bales was tripped from behind, giving the veteran forward a chance to clinch the win in a shootout.
Bales approached the Ice’s Alex Leclerc and calmly slotted the game-winning goal to the jubilation of the vocal North Stars contingent of fans.
“It’s a sudden death game and it was a definite penalty shot,” said North Stars coach Andrew Petrie. “But an interesting story about Brian Bales, he’s refused all year to participate in shootouts because he doesn’t like doing it.”
The final was intense from the outset with a plenty of chances on the net, great defence and incredible goaltending, but it was proving difficult to register goals.
This was until, as has happened so many times this year, the puck landed in front of league top scorer, Geordie Wudrick who fired the North Stars into the lead.
The back and forth action was bound to see someone break through eventually, and it was Melbourne that were able to find a chink in the North Stars’ armour.
Following a defensive mistake from the North Stars, the puck fell to Tommy Powell who made no mistake in rifling home a huge slap shot to level the scores late in the first period.
We were in for an arm wrestle of a game with plenty of great opportunities but no goals in a tremendous goaltending duel between the North Stars’ Dayne Davis and the previously unbeaten Alex Leclerc from the Melbourne Ice.
Much of the third was intense action but it took a rifle of a shot from Jan Safar to break the deadlock with just under two minutes remaining.
The Ice, desperate not to lose a second straight decider, pushed hard, pulling Leclerc despite being a man down with Lliam Webster in the box.
However, the move worked with Mitch Humphries tying the game with just 31 seconds to go and sending the game to overtime.
In the first overtime Grand Final since 2009, Bales deked before sweeping the game and Goodall Cup winning goal and ending a seven year drought for the Novocastrians.
Retired North Stars captain and assistant coach Ray Sheffield said it was a sweet victory.
“It feels great, feels just as good as it did when I was a player,” said Sheffield. “I’m very happy for all these guys and the team in general. We just had a great year.”
With a vocal crowd making the trip to Newcastle, Sheffield said he was grateful for the support.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Sheffield. “We had a lot of support here in Melbourne and I can’t believe this many people came down to watch. It’s great to have them all here.”
Geordie Wudrick swept the MVP Awards as well, winning both the season and finals MVP while Jan Safar claimed the defenceman of the year for the AIHL Champions.
“I feel happy for them [Jan Safar and Geordie Wudrick],” said Sheffield. “I was talking to Jan out there on the ice and he said that was the first award he’s ever won; kind of brought me to tears. The guy is a special player; it’s hard to believe that that’s the first award he’s ever won.”
Coach Andrew Petrie was thrilled with the result and pleased about the worldwide support the game had garnered but spared a thought for the Melbourne Ice, who was gallant in defeat.
“Someone said people in 54 different countries were watching the livestream and I personally have friends in Boston, Calgary and Vancouver who were watching,” Petrie said. “I want to personally credit the Melbourne Ice. That was just a phenomenal game of hockey. There was not a dirty moment; not a cynical penalty. The referees did a phenomenal job all weekend and they cop a lot of s**t and just did a great job from start to finish. All in all, just amazing.”