This weekend presents a huge opportunity for the Sydney Bears to wrest back control of the Hellyer Conference's top-spot. On Friday night the Bears play the Ice Dogs for the Wilson Cup in the latest instalment of the Battle of Sydney, and Saturday the Mustangs arrive for a top-of-the-conference battle.
The Sydney Bears will look to continue its three-game winning streak, including last weekend's sweep of the Melbourne Ice and Melbourne Mustangs. With the Mustangs holding a four-point lead at the top of the Hellyer Conference, there is plenty up for grabs this weekend.
Friday vs Sydney Ice Dogs 7:30 pm at Macquarie Ice Rink (Ice Dogs home game, click here for tickets)
While the Bears enjoyed a week off last weekend, the Ice Dogs lost at home to the Newcastle Northstars (5-1) and Melbourne Mustangs (9-2). The Ice Dogs struggled to clear the front of the net and gave up secondary chances in both contests.
The teams have played each other twice this season, with the Bears winning 6-3 and 6-2. Both games occurred early in the season, with the last contest held more than two months ago on May 5.
While the Ice Dogs have struggled at times defensively, conceding 94 goals against, they do possess offensive weapons. Grant Toulmin (34), Brandon Egli (28), Strat Allen (24), Jeremy Vasquez (19), Dmitri Kuleshov (19), and Brady Heppner (10) are all averaging over a point per game this season.
Coach Ron Kuprowsky will have both of his top goaltenders to choose from to counter the Ice Dogs' offensive threats, with James Downie and Anthony Kimlin available for selection. The goaltending for the Bears has been excellent this season and a big factor in the league's best defence.
Illustrating the Bears' dominance, the team has conceded just 43 goals in 16 games (2.69 per game). The league's second best defence, the CBR Brave has conceded 58 goals, 15 more, in 19 games (3.05 per game).
Saturday vs Melbourne Mustangs 5:00 pm at Macquarie Ice Rink (click here for tickets)
The Mustangs enter the weekend leading the Hellyer Conference by four points. However, the Bears have played three less games meaning there is plenty of time to catch up, and the Bears could be back on top as soon as Saturday night.
The Mustangs and Bears have played each other twice this season, and Sydney has emerged victorious both time - winning 3-1 in Melbourne, and 8-3 at Macquarie just two weeks ago.
Since that last loss to the Bears, the Mustangs enjoyed a successful road trip last weekend, defeating the Lightning 6-1 at Boondall, and the Ice Dogs 9-2 at Macquarie. Import forward Scott Timmins continued his decimation of the scoresheet, collecting three goals and seven assists in the two contests.
Timmins, who leads the league with 61 points (24 goals, 37 assists), has only been held off the scoresheet once in 19 games this season. Encouragingly for Bears fans, that was against the Bears a fortnight ago.
Fellow first-liner Chris Lawrence is also averaging over three points per game. Shutting down the potent first line will go a long way towards securing three points in the contest.
Timothy Newmark will make his return to the line-up this weekend. The Bears' blueline been depleted over the last few contests, and Newmark's return means Kenshin Hayashi, who filled in admirably on defence, will move back to forward this weekend.
Import Joshua Lammon will look to continue his fine form; it took a while for Lammon to get his first AIHL goal, but after three last weekend he has signalled his scoring intent.
In addition to Lammon, Hayden Dawes is also on a two-game scoring streak along with Tommy Steven. However, beating them all is Thomas Moncrieff, currently on a four-game goal scoring streak.
Contests like these can be decided by the thinnest of margins. We need you, our seventh player, to lift the team to victory.
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