Five key takeaways from the Sydney Bears’ 2-1 shootout win against the Perth Thunder at Macquarie Ice Rink.
Early strength in possession paid dividends. The Bears’ fast start and early hold on possession saw results as they managed to draw the Perth side into a couple of penalties. Rob Haselhurst was called first for tripping and within twenty seconds, David Kudla was called for hooking, giving the Sydney side almost two minutes at five-on-three.
A strong set-up play in the Thunder zone eventually reaped rewards as two of the new imports combined to open the scoring, with Nick Rivait putting the puck past Peter Di Salvo off of a Jackson Brewer feed. The Bears had a sniff at a second too, as they continued to pressure with the one-man advantage.
Counter attacks are still an issue for the Bears. Perth were able to break-out a couple of times at speed, leaving the Sydney side scrambling somewhat. However, sensible defensive play proved the key to preventing any damage on the scoreboard; that and the ever effective Anthony Kimlin in net.
Efficient zone clearances are an area that the Bears are showing improvement in, but giveaways are still harming them. Factor in that Thunder were missing their captain Jamie Woodman and top scorer Ben Breault and you can see why this needs tightening up.
Unlucky break with last second goal-mouth scramble. The second period, much like the first, had plenty of goalmouth action for both teams. Perth seemed determined to equalise and made sure the Bears knew it, with plenty of gritty play in front and behind the net. They only managed one shot more than the Bears for the period, but unfortunately it was a shot that came off the back of a scramble in the crease ending up in the net with a tenth of a second left on the clock.
The tiniest of margins, however, do make the difference. The Bears understandably looked a bit deflated heading into the locker room at the end of the period.
A strong third period showing isn’t enough to win in regulation. Sydney should be applauded for coming out in the third period with renewed fight, showcasing a combination of grit and skill. They dominated the shot count 12 to 7 but Di Salvo in the Perth net was able to hold them off.
The increased physicality saw both teams pick up a chance on the powerplay but neither was able to capitalise, despite strong setups. To their absolute credit, the Macquarie crowd became more vocal in their support, with players getting a visible rise out of the increased volume in the building. It wasn’t to be though, as the game closed out with the scores still level despite the best efforts of both teams.
Bears come up with the goods in the shootout. Jessyko Bernard stepped up first for Perth, but wasn’t able to get past Kimlin, whilst Vlad Rubes blew a powerful shot wide for Sydney. Kudla followed, but couldn’t get a handle on the puck giving the Bears’ goaltender an easy save before Tomas Landa blasted a rocket glove-side on Di Salvo. Kieren Webster ensured it’d go down to the wire, netting for the Thunder before new Bears’ import Jackson Brewer stepped up to score the game winner on his birthday. Not a bad birthday if you ask me; an assist and the shootout winning goal!
Getting their first win on their third attempt should do the world of good for the teams’ confidence. Doing so against one of last year’s top four teams suggests that the Bears can beat anyone on their day, especially if they continue to work hard on their systems and the imports continue to help raise the game of everyone around them.
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