The Sydney Bears defeated the CBR Brave 3-2 in a back-and-forth contest in the capital. Kenshin Hayashi, Tommy Steven, and Tomas Landa scored the goals for the Bears.
Sydney outshot the hosts 12-8 in the opening frame, powered by two powerplay opportunities. But the team couldn’t solve Brave goaltender Aleksi Toivonen.
The Bears also have an elite goaltender in Anthony Kimlin, and he was sharp to deny Mitchell Henning from point-blank range towards the end of the period.
The arm-wrestle continued in the second, and the second line of Tomas Landa, Kenshin Hayashi, and Jeremy Brücker looked dangerous throughout. Halfway through the period, the line finally broke through.
Timmy Newmark passed from the defensive zone to Hayashi in the neutral zone, who tipped the puck behind Toivonen’s net. Toivonen came out to settle the puck for one of his defencemen, but Landa got to it first.
Landa skated behind the net and then fired a pass cross-crease to Hayashi who tipped it home for his third tuck of the season.
Tommy Steven almost made it 2-0 moments later. Joshua Lammon’s pass sent him in alone on Toivonen. A deft deke left an open net with Toivonen sprawled in the paint, but Steven ran out of room and hit the side netting.
The defending champions pushed back late in the second, and equalised off a neutral zone turnover.
Austin Albrecht picked off a Marc McNulty pass, sped in alone, and fired an early shot that went five-hole through Kimlin.
The goal energised the Brave Cave, and the Brave fed off the boost, scoring a go-ahead goal minutes later.
With the Bears hemmed in their own zone, the Brave crashed the net, and a bouncing puck went to Matt Harvey in the slot. Harvey buried the puck past Kimlin for the Brave’s first lead of the game.
Kimlin made a trio of key saves late in the period to keep the Bears within reach, denying Tyler Kubara and Felix Plouffe on the doorstep.
After taking the intermission to regroup, the Bears came out flying in the third period, equalising in just eight seconds.
Joshua Lammon won the faceoff and some nifty neutral zone passing from Lammon and Cowans found Tommy Steven flying down the right wing. Steven fired a clapper from the right circle that went top-shelf far-side to make it 2-2.
The goal, Steven’s 13th this season, propelled his goal-scoring streak to 10 games, and demonstrated why he was named Skater’s Network AIHL Player of the Week.
When Mike Giorgi went to the box for a double-minor, Sydney had a glorious opportunity to break the tie. However, it was the Brave who got the better chances to score.
First, Felix Plouffe danced around the defence and Kimlin, but Kimlin’s extended pad caught just enough of the puck to deny the Brave.
Next it was Camenzind who fired from between the circles but was denied by Kimlin’s blocker. Camenzind had another opportunity as the penalty expired, but the puck bounced at the last moment and Kimlin swallowed up the weak shot.
Austin Albrecht was next to be denied by Kimlin. The Brave import walked through the crease but couldn’t get through Kimlin.
Tyerell Clare went to the penalty box with 6:42 remaining sending the Brave to the powerplay for the first time, and a big penalty kill was required to keep scores level.
Kimlin made another pair of saves, going post-to-post to deny Tyler Kubara, and the Bears went up the ice and took the lead.
Brücker chipped the puck out of the zone to Landa, and Landa skated down the right wing, chipped the puck around Casey Kubara into the middle of the ice, and wristed the puck over Toivonen’s blocker for the 3-2 lead.
The Bears didn’t sit back, but continued to push for another goal, and Tomas Landa earned a powerplay after he was slashed by Carson Vance. The Bears were happy to keep possession and see out the clock for the monumental 3-2 victory.
Notes and Quotes
Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre has been a fortress for the Brave for quite some time. No team other than the Bears has left Canberra with any points since the Melbourne Mustangs visited on June 23, 2018, and recorded a 4-1 victory.
The Bears have beaten the Brave three times in Canberra since that Mustangs triumph. It’s also the first time the Bears have ever swept the Brave in a season series, and the first team to do so since the Perth Thunder in 2017.
The result is even more impressive considering the Brave had all of their imports and a full-strength team. The Bears iced just three imports, and were also missing local talents Michael Schlamp and Joey Gunner.
“It’s always a hard game against them, right,” said Landa, “especially in Canberra. They know how to play that rink. They were a little better than us, but we had better goaltending. Kimmer kept us in the game. He allows us to make some mistakes at the front.”
For Bears’ Head Coach Ron Kuprowsky, the success is in the detail.
“Playing Canberra requires a commitment from each player to play hard both ways,” he said.
“Obviously, each year, Canberra has a different looking team, but our determination to defend our end and the ability to pay attention to the details and stick to the game plan remains constant.”
When asked about the impact of seeing so many travelling Bears fans in the rink, Kuprowsky commented, “Yeah, we hear them, and it’s great to hear them silence the Canberra fans last night and the horns… we love it.
“Also, big thanks to Andrew Whiddon for helping organise transportation and the sausage and refreshments at the tailgate party before the game.”
Landa was also grateful for the fans who travelled, “that was fantastic! It kind of felt like a home game at some points, thanks to them, thanks for coming”.
Landa’s goal marked the fifth straight game the 39-year-old has scored. “You want to score every game, right?”, Landa said. “I’m just very happy that I can still help the team. It’s a good feeling, it gives you confidence for the next games.”
The Bears also made a new fan’s night. Richy Dent brought his son Oscar to his first ice hockey game, and Oscar proclaimed himself a Bears’ fan as he got out of the car.
They approached a group of travelling Bears supporters, the Rowdy Bears, and asked where they could buy a Bears’ beanie.
“Without hesitation, a legend takes his beanie off and gives it to Oscar,” Richy said. “Post victory he got to meet his favourite player [Ace Cowans] and some others who gave him a signed stick.”
Welcome to the Bears’ family, Oscar!
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