|Ice hold on to beat Adrenaline 6-5
The Melbourne Ice have withstood a late third period comeback by the Adelaide Adrenaline, winning their opening game of the 2019 AIHL season 6-5 in front of a packed O’Brien Icehouse on Easter Sunday.
After allowing four goals in the first period against the Mustangs the night before, an undermanned Adrenaline allowed four goals in the final 20 minutes to see them leave Melbourne without a point on their first road trip of the year.
Unlike the previous night, it was Adelaide who got on the board first. Fresh off his Mighty Roo campaign in Serbia, ‘Aussie Joe' Rezek skated the length of the ice from the face-off on a 2-on-1 and let a beautiful wrist shot go, beating Downie upstairs to stun the Melbourne Ice 1-0 with 8:38 to play in the first.
Less than 15 seconds later the Adrenaline struck again on a 2-on-1, when a sweet cross-ice dish from Ales Kratoska found Harley Anderson at the back post, putting the visitors up 2-0 and silencing the O’Brien Icehouse faithful.
The first period finished 2-0 Adelaide, with the shots 11-8 in favour of the Ice.
The second frame started with several quality chances for the Ice but they could not penetrate the spectacular goaltending of Jesse Gordichuk in the Adelaide net.
The shutout bid would not last.
Jesse Schwartz scored his first goal on debut for the Ice just 4:49 into the period, taking a nice cross-ice dish from Matt Armstrong inside the blue line to tap it home past Gordichuk, and the Ice had clawed the game back to 2-1.
Adelaide had a couple of chances to both Neuber and Benson to extend the lead back out to 3-2, but were denied by Downie.
Tommy Powell then tapped home a rebound through Gordichuk's five-hole off of a Schwartz shot, tieing the game with 2:43 to go in the second.
However, the Adrenaline responded 56 seconds from the end of the period when Alexandre Gauthier ripped a one-timer from the point, to put the Adrenaline up 3-2 heading into the second intermission. The power-play goal was Gauthier’s first for the club and the Adrenaline headed into the break confident of salvaging some points out of the double header.
No-one could have predicted what would happen in the final period of regulation.
Schwartz got his second goal 88 seconds into the period to tie the game for the Ice again, 3-3.
31 seconds later, Austin McKenzie beat Gordichuk to give the Melbourne Ice the lead for the first time in the game, 4-3 with 18:02 to go in regulation.
Mighty Roo Jack Carpenter added yet another for Melbourne two minutes later making it 5-3, with the Adrenaline not knowing what had just hit them.
The Ice continued to pile on the shots for the remainder of the period and control possession, with it looking almost ominous that the three points was theirs. It looked even more so when Jonathon Bremner, who moved east from the Perth Thunder in the off-season, grabbed his first goal in his first game in Ice colours to make it 6-3 with 3:20 remaining.
However, it wasn’t over yet.
Rezek threw his hat in the ring for goal of the season, when he went coast-to-coast and squeezed the puck past Downie, reducing the deficit to 6-4. Rezek’s second goal of the game came with just 1:27 to go in the third and a sniff of a comeback was on.
Steve Best then added another one 22 seconds later when he let a laser of a shot go from the left-hand circle, finding daylight between the post and Downie’s right shoulder, to make the difference 6-5 with just over a minute remaining. It appeared that the first overtime of the 2019 season awaited us.
However, despite the late flurry from Adelaide the Ice held on even with Gordichuk pulled for the extra skater, and took the three points to start their 2019 campaign off with a win.
Downie made 26 saves from 31 shots, while Gordichuk stopped 35 of 41.