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
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.