Newcastle North Stars V Melbourne Mustangs

The Melbourne Mustangs headed north to Newcastle with one main aim, to tie down fourth spot on the AIHL ladder.

Debra Jean Photography

Debra Jean Photography

The opening exchanges set the pace for the remainder of the game, which would be fast and desperate hockey which delivered big checks by two sets of defenders out to show their dominance.

Both teams were making great drives into the oppositions zone without making too many shots on goal due to scrambling defence of both the North Stars and Mustangs.

The Mustangs were working the puck out of their defensive zone with the combination between Kevin Glanzman and Jamie Bourke immediately obvious to the sell-out crowd in attendance at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium.

With 5.46 remaining in the first period, Alex Hall combined with Andrew Fitzgerald to give the Mustangs a 1-0 after a wide skating Fitzgerald put the puck past Olivier Martin.

The North Stars quickly regrouped and with 1.24 remaining in the first period when John Kennedy Jr shot the puck from the blue line which was deflected by Jeff Martens to equal the scores at 1-1.

In a period that saw the North Stars outshoot the Mustangs 21 to 10, the goal tending of Jon Olthius was the difference however one would think Newcastle Coach Gary Dore would have liked rewards that come with effort.

The second period saw some frantic hockey, in what could be best described as semi final, and for the Mustangs chasing their first finals series, it probably was.

Although the period finished scoreless, the end of the period saw John Kennedy Jr and Jamie Bourke taking a 10 minute break after exchanging pleasantries after the buzzer sounded.

The third period began similar to the pace of the first two however minus Kennedy and Bourke who were clocking up some pine time.

The North Stars and the Mustangs were evenly on par throughout the third period and the match was looking like heading to a shoot-out.

A penalty to John Kennedy Jr for roughing with 53 seconds remaining in the match opened the door for the Mustangs to close out the match on a power play and it paid off with 29 seconds remaining in the match when Jack Wolgemuth connected a pass to Brendan McDowell, who fired a shot from the blue line past the glove of Olivier Martin and a 2-1 victory for the Mustangs.

Mustangs coach Brad Vigon summed up a close and exciting tussle, “Some great work by the goal tenders on both sides, the game flowed well with minimal penalties. There were systems we have that got away from us last weekend against Adelaide so we made sure we played to those”.

For the Mustangs to make their first AIHL Finals Series at home in Melbourne it takes belief from the benches to the coach and from what we saw tonight, the Mustangs believe.

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