Monthly Archives: August 2013

Newcastle North Stars: Double Trouble Weekend

The Newcastle North Stars head south of the border to play the Melbourne Ice on Saturday and the Melbourne Mustangs on Sunday in what could be a test run for the Finals weekend.

Debra Jean Photography

Debra Jean Photography

The two games have many similarities with the psychological edge a major factor.

The Ice will be looking to defeat the North Stars thus avoiding them in the Semi-Finals and display a show of dominance at home.

The Mustangs will be looking for a big home win to finish the season and take revenge for the previous weeks loss to Newcastle in Newcastle.

Both the Ice and the Mustangs are hard to beat at home and no teams want to go into the Finals on the back of a loss.

The North Stars have the fire power to win both games yet it would appear the Mustangs are more of a threat than the Ice but this is season 2013 and nothing is assured.

 

 

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North Stars Toy Drive

There are times when being connected to a sport makes you feel a sense of pride however this feeling is intensified when your sport, is an amateur sport and is out in the community doing great things.

Photo:: Craig Tonks

Photo:: Craig Tonks

It’s pleasing to see the Newcastle North Stars continue the tradition of the annual John Hunter Children’s Hospital Toy Drive, started in 2010 by Import, Chris Belanger.

Each year in the lead up to last few home games the North Stars fans donate toys for the children at the hospital, who’s ages range from 1 to 18.

With the assistance of the Starlight Foundation the North Stars attend the hospital with the aim of bringing smiles to the faces of some very sick kids, some who are fighting serious illnesses.

A bunch of hockey players walking into the hospital with large buckets of toys got tongues wagging and it was nice to see some hockey fans come out of the woodwork to say hi.

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Players John Kennedy Jr, Dominic Osman, Jeff Martens, Tim Stanger, Pier-Olivier Cotnoir and Joey Theriault were joined by Greg Rickford, Craig Tonks and Peter Davis from the North Stars Media Team who attended each ward and delivered a toy to every child.

The smiles on the faces from the kids, many with long stays in hospital ahead of them were a humbling reminder of how a small amount of effort can bring an enormous amount of happiness to a child.

Did Video Killed the Radio Star?

We’ve all heard the song, “Video killed the Radio Star” but will Foxtel kill the Livestream?

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Anyone who remembers the song by The Buggles, knows it laments the issue about the new fad of television and music videos killing of the once glamours radio star.

History shows us that the two have managed to live in harmony so this begs the question. Can Livesteam ran by the clubs, live in harmony with the AIHL and Foxtels coverage of the AIHL.

Firstly we need to look at the Livestreams currently produced by the clubs. The Melbourne Ice and the Newcastle North Stars produce about the two best Livestreams.

One major problem with Livestream is uplink speed something the North Stars have struggled with this year but it’s dedicated crew work hard at each week trying to improve. Each week bits are added by the tech guru’s Greg Rickford and Peter Lambert in an attempt to bring fans a better experience.

Consistent uplink speed from an ice rink, which is basically a big fridge has many issues. The big one being a decent 3G or 4G signal. The people at home watching, who are overly honest in their opinion when the uplink is bad are taking in the stream as a download which has much more speed.

We have to remember that the Livestream is free. It’s not NHL Game Centre, if it was Rickford and Lambert would be like kids in a candy shop. Newcastle doesn’t have a permanent set up which means it all has to be set up and taken down each week which can end in connections not working or slight issues however a quick look at the chat room will show a few watchers complaining about the free stream they are receiving.

Anyone who knows Rickford, knows he was the Digital Media Manager at the Cronulla Sharks Rugby League NRL club, who first tried streaming an NRL match in the 90’s only to have Kerry Packer himself ring up to shut it down. Although it was probably a frame every second, even Packer knew it could damage his product.

So leads us to look at Foxtel. This has been the biggest thing for the sport in Australia since the game was introduced.

The product on the ice through the hard work over the years from people like Tyler Lovering, Peter Lambert and Robert Bannerman have showcased a product that has found a new expanding audience.

James Morgan and his ATC Productions did an amazing job with the finals in 2012 and have done a great job producing the 2013 season content, which yes has had it critics but overall has been positive and James and his crew should stand proud against their product.

So the question now is the 2013 Finals series. Will it be televised and still be streamed?

The Finals have been streamed every year live since 2005 and hockey fans in Australia and Overseas, rely on the stream to watch Australian ice hockey. Is it a good idea to alienate these fans?

Do we now go back a few steps and instead of watching the 2013 finals series live via the stream with live commentary, we can watch it a week later already knowing the score.

I myself have memories of 2011, watching the stream on my laptop computer, on the edge of my seat watching the Newcastle North Stars battle the Melbourne Ice.

There is always a bigger picture. In the next few years will we see live games on Foxtel with live commentary? Will we see more than one game a week? Do we have to sacrifice our Livestream for something that may or may not happen in the future?

So we know the answer to the first question. Video didn’t really kill the radio star in the same way movies on a video player didn’t kill the cinema.

Surely the finals can be streamed without hurting the product, that we will still watch on foxtel however the silence from the AIHL is deafening.

Craig Tonks

Newcastle North Stars V Melbourne Mustangs

Newcastle North Stars V Melbourne Mustangs

It’ s always exciting when the Mustangs come to town and even more so when their season is on the line and a win could make a big difference.

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

The first period opened with a hectic section of play with an early breakaway almost resulting in a Newcastle goal however moments later the Mustangs lost Adrian Nash for the match, when a collision occurred between Nash and Jeff Martens shoulder, resulting in a cut above the eye and a concussion for Nash. Video footage showed both players with their heads down at the time and was merely a hockey collision.

In a pleasing period of hockey for Coach Gary Dore and a frustrating one for Brad Vigon, the Mustangs had three power plays during the period yet could only manage five shots on goal due to the pressure applied by the Newcastle penalty kill.

In a period that finished scoreless the Mustangs had the opportunities but were let down by loose passes, whether it be the absence of Nash in the line up or the hustle of the North Stars in their own blue zone.

The second period began with both teams skating the puck out of their own defensive zones and up through the middle of the ice and finally making the shots on goal.

The Mustangs made the best of the early opportunities when Brendan McDowell, who had been patrolling the North Stars goal mouth for much of the first period combined with Patrick O’Kane to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead, when O’Kane fired a shot past Olivier Martin from just inside the blue line.

Newcastle hit back a mere eight seconds later when Jeff Martens slipped a puck to Pier-Olivier Cotnoir to level the score at 1-1.

The North Stars seemed to have found their groove and a goal at 7.53 to Jeff Martens was quickly followed up by a Beau Taylor goal at 5.54 to send the North Stars to the break with a 3-1 lead.

The sixteen shots on goal for the Mustangs would have been one pleasing aspect for Coach Vigon and his chargers who were creating the opportunities but just couldn’t find the net.

The third period started with a repeat of the second when Pier-Olivier Cotnoir combined with Beau Taylor at 17.70 to make the score 4-1.

The lead gave Coach Dore the chance to give more ice time to his young gun line leading into the finals. The likes of Matt Wettini, Tim Stanger, Jaysen Chalker and Nick Quirk combined with the veterans, Ray Sheffield and Rob Duchemin to rest the legs of the North Stars imports.

With 7.43 remaining in the game Nick Quirk combined with Tim Stanger to take the score to 5-1 and Quirk was in the action again at 3.34 for his second goal to finish the game with a 6-1 North Stars victory.

Although the loss meant the Mustangs would miss the 2013 AIHL Finals, Coach Vigon will be out the show the North Stars they have plenty of bite left when they meet next round, when they host the boys from Newy at the Icehouse on Sunday 1st September.

Newcastle North Stars – Aiming up for a 5th

With Newcastle North Stars and the Sydney Ice Dogs already putting their stamp on the AIHL Finals for 2013, who will come up trumps this year? Many thought Melbourne Ice would be the front runner again but a whole lot more were quietly confident that another team would take it out this year and end the Ice’s strangle hold on Ice Hockey in Australia.

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Is it the North Stars year? Or will the discipline that the Ice Dogs have shown pull them through to victory? Let’s take a look at the North Stars … their strengths and key players, their season so far and their last games before the finals.

Their biggest strength lies in their Goalie, Olivier Martin and with 3 complete shutouts this season he sits at the top of Goalie Ladder in the AIHL. Strength can also be found in the well honed defensive combinations of Rob Stark, John Kennedy, Ray Sheffield and Jaysen Chalker PLUS frontmen ….. well actually I could name them all because every one of them are very strong players but those that stand out are Dominic Osman, Jeff Martens, Beau Taylor and Pier-Olivier Cotnoir.

The development throughout the year of the “Young Guns” has seen increased ice time for the likes of Tim Stanger, Nick Quirk and Matt Wetini – they have really stepped up their game this season, added depth to the side and have been excellent in the team.

An X-Factor for the North Stars could be David Upton and Adam Geric, who look dangerous on the puck and always seem to be asking questions. Geric is one player who gets in and fights for the puck and protects it at all costs.

The North Stars season so far has seen them play leap frog with the Sydney Ice Dogs and the Melbourne Ice for top of the ladder honors leading into the finals, which has been one of the most interesting aspects of the 2013 season.

Some shuffling of the lines this season has affected a few performances however this occurs with every team due to availabilities of players for away games. The added bonus for the North Stars has the ability of Dominic Osman and Pier-Olivier Cotnoir to slip into defensive roles.

The biggest threat to teams come September is John Kennedy Jnr. In his first season in the red and blue the man we know as JFK, has added a grunt factor to the Stars defense. The smiling assassin controls the Newcastle blue line with a determination that has seen him star in his own Mockumentary, JFK36.

The North Stars have ticked all the boxes required to win their fifth Goodall Cup yet the pressure of finals hockey can be a funny thing. Only time will tell if the North Stars can lift the cup, but based on what we have seen so far I believe they can.

Debra Tonks

Newcastle North Stars V Melbourne Mustangs Preview

The Melbourne Mustangs head to Newcastle this weekend as one of the form teams in the competition. To say the season is on the line for the Mustangs is an understatement and a loss to the North Stars could be devastating.

 

With the likes of Pat O’Kane, Jamie Bourke and the man we call Woogie, Jack Wolgemuth the Stangs have a potent attack which can score goals. The Mustangs have the ability to work the puck out of their own zone and Kevin Glanzman has been pivotal in getting the puck to the forwards.

 

The North Stars will be looking to dominate their potential finals opponents and considering they play the Mustangs again next weekend, a win for the North Stars here could show they are finals ready and in doing so shake the confidence of the Mustangs.

Newcastle North Stars V Melbourne Ice

There’s always a sense of excitement when the Melbourne Ice come to town because you know you are up against one the great teams of the AIHL and if you’re not on your game, you’ll be punished.

Photo: Debra Jean Photography

Photo: Debra Jean Photography

It became evident in the first period that both teams were desperate to take points in the crowded AIHL Top 4 when at 12.52 Rob Starke and Lliam Webster were sent to sample the pine after a scuffle in front of the Newcastle goal.

The blue line became a fortress for both teams and it would take a Jason Baclig backhander, deep into the Newcastle zone at 9.28 to give the Ice an early 1-0 lead.

With 2.20 remaining in the first period, Todd Graham was sent to the box for holding which gave the North Stars their first big opportunity. It would be a mere 5 seconds later that Jeff Martens provided the assist for Pier-Olivier Cotnoir to equal the scores at 1-1.

The second period began with Melbourne the more dominant team with the Ice being able to shut down the North Stars attack denying them the last shot on some enterprising plays. Weathering the storm paid off for the Ice when at 13.04 Tommy Powell put the puck past Olivier Martin to give the Ice a 2-1 lead.

At this point something clicked in the North Stars attack. The loose passes began to stick and goal tender Olivier Martin developed a steely look in his eyes. At 9.13 a Beau Taylor pass found an awaiting Dominic Osman who buried it in the back of the net to make it 2-2.

At 7.40 remaining in the second period, Pier Olivier Cotnoir provided an assist for AIHL Leading Point Scorer, Jeff Martens to open his account for the night which seemed to unsettle the Ice.

Two power plays at 3.06 and then 2.08 against the Ice gave the Newcastle power play unit the opportunity to push ahead, yet the experience of Melbourne helped them weather the storm, although at the conclusion of the power play the North Stars continued the attack with Pier-Olivier Cotnoir grabbing his second goal and a 4-2 lead.

The third period saw the game still sitting on a platter for which ever team could control the neutral zone and their discipline. It would be the North Stars who took the first opportunity to take a bite from the platter when at 16.48 Jeff Martens combined with Cotnoir to push Newcastle ahead 5-2.

A quality team like the Melbourne Ice will always hit back when you least expect it and they did just that at 14.28, when Jason Baclig, who was everywhere for the Ice, provided the assist for Marcus Wong to get the score back to 5-3.

The North Stars always look a dangerous team when David Upton is on the ice and his combination with Beau Taylor saw Upton claim a goal and a 6-3 score line.

At 8.27, a check from behind call against Matt Armstrong opened up the Ice for the North Stars and at 6.44 Jeff Martens capitalised from a David Upton assist to push the score out to 7-3.

If anyone ever thinks that the Melbourne Ice will roll over and capitulate when on the wrong end of the scoreline are very misinformed. A point proved when Dylan Moore, at 4.27 grabbed a handy goal from in front of the net to close the gap and a 7-4 score.

The North Stars attack could sense an immanent victory against the Ice, yet showed the character required for September as they continued to keep the pressure on Melbourne when many other teams would have set the cruise control.

With 2.39 remaining in the game Jeff Martens completed the scoring with a hat trick for the North Stars, bringing the score to 8-4.

The game lived up to expectations in intensity and the drama one would associate with a clash of this proportion however discipline for the Ice, is paramount to staying in games. Although a few losses in the back end of the season can rattle most teams, the Melbourne Ice aren’t most teams.

The North Stars showed that they have three great capable lines and perhaps it’s time for North Stars fans to start booking flights for Melbourne.