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.
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.