Strong goaltending proves the difference maker in the first period. Anthony Kimlin once again showed his talent for keeping the puck out of the net, shining in the first period in Newcastle as he faced eleven shots in the opening frame. The Newcastle side proved strong in possession, with the puck seemingly on a string as they sprayed it around the ice at a pace that the Bears struggled to contain.
Despite the Northstars’ depth of firepower, the Sydney Bears held strong to head into the locker room with the scores level at 0-0, setting themselves up for a chance at the upset.
A concentration lapse within five minutes of returning to the ice saw the Bears down 2-0. Two goals within about a minute of each other proved the undoing of the Sydney team. With Brian Funes sitting for a hooking call, the Northstars broke the deadlock courtesy of Zane Jones before Joe Harcharik netted against his former club to stretch the margin to two.
A third goal from Matt Marantz was to follow before the Sydney Bears were able to notch their first of the game.
Veteran Vlad Rubes netted the goal for his 400th career AIHL point to give the Bears hope. For all of Newcastle’s strength and speed, the Sydney team weren’t about to let themselves be put down without a fight. Vlad Rubes, who returned to the ice this year in his forties, after a few years behind the bench, netted a goal to tally four hundred in the Australian Ice Hockey League.
The goal seemed to spark the Bears to life, with five more shots at young Nicholas Mizen in the Newcastle net, before the buzzer sounded for the end of the second period.
Fast start in the third doesn’t prove enough. The Bears flew out of the gate in the third period, peppering Mizen with shot after shot and eventually it paid off as Tomas Landa put one top shelf over the goalie’s glove.
But for a couple of unlucky bounces and strong saves, the away side could’ve brought the scores level, as they really went for broke on the reigning champions, with both teams in search of their first win of the season.
Late goals finally kill off the Bears’ chance of an upset. A late goal from Stephen Kuhn saw Kimlin pulled and the team go for broke with the extra attacker and a 4-2 margin.
However, an empty-net effort with thirty seconds left to play was the final nail in the coffin. The Bears, to their credit put 17 shots on net in the final frame, with a lot of quality attempts unfortunately turned away.
But for a strong goaltending performance and strength of the Northstars’ offence in the second period, the Sydney Bears could’ve returned from Newcastle with the win.
It wasn’t to be, but the overall team performance certainly suggests that there’s more to this Bears side than the two losses thus far suggest.
Photo Credit: Rhys Lavender
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