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AIHL Preview 26/04 & 27/04

This weekend will see the Australian Ice Hockey League slam down the throttle with the Melbourne Ice and the Adelaide Adrenaline hit the road for double headers. Craig Tonks breaks down the games and gives us his opinion.

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Melbourne Ice V Perth Thunder

The Melbourne Ice will travel to Perth to take on the Thunder for two games. It’s the first hit out for the Thunder, who are surely confident of getting the season off to a great start, after a great finish to the 2013 season, which saw them reach the finals. The Thunder have assembled a solid playing roster with many supporters and other teams keen to see Justin Fox and Corey Toy hit the ice for the first time.

The Ice were one of the teams who played over the Easter weekend and will carry match fitness and form. Many fans see that the opening weekend of hockey in Perth will be enough to lift the Thunder to their first victory, but I think the games will be split.

Adelaide Adrenaline V Newcastle North Stars

The Adrenaline are another team hitting the ice for the first time this weekend and start the season with a road trip and a decent road trip at that. A smart selection of Imports will see the Adrenaline looking to perform better than they did in 2013. They always say it’s the quiet ones you need to watch and the Adrenaline have been quietly going about their business, which makes them a bit of an unknown quantity and I would think the Adrenaline would be happy with that. The element of surprise can be dangerous.

The North Stars who dropped their opening home game against the Bears will welcome new Import, Chris Wilson who will slip into the first line. Coach Gary Dore won’t accept two losses at home and will have reworked his lines and looked at how to maximise the North Stars strengths. This should get the North Stars over the line.

CBR Brave V Sydney Ice Dogs

Last years AIHL Champions, the Sydney Ice Dogs head to the nations capital to take on the Brave, who played some great hockey in their opening match against the Newcastle North Stars. Although the Brave went down to the North Stars, they will be ready to give the Ice Dogs a great run for their money.

The Ice Dogs started the season with a great win against the Melbourne Ice, however with teams like the Ice down on personnel due to the World Championships, this will be a good indicator for the Dogs to see where they are at. The key for the Brave will be how to shut down the short handed kings, Simon Barg and Robert Malloy specially when the Brave are on a power play. The Dogs are the power play specialists. I think the Ice Dogs will be too strong.

Adelaide Adrenaline V Sydney Bears

The Sydney Bears have had a great start to the season but as Yoda says, “One game does not a season make”. Starting with a shut-out of Newcastle at home, the Bears look great on the ice. The development of youth looks to be paying off and they have recruited smart. Sean Hamilton Steen was a stand out last game and goal tender, Daniel Palmkvist was solid. Welcoming Michael Schlamp and Cameron Todd back into the line up will see the Bears stronger and hungrier than ever. I think this one is worthy of a shootout.

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Winning At All Costs……But What Cost??

Last year I was witness to a remarkable event of sportsmanship. In a world where we are driven to win and succeed at all cost, it was an event that made me take a step back and think.

I would need to set the background and explain a bit more.

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

Photo:: Debra Jean Photography

The Newcastle North Stars Atoms team (6 to 10 year olds) were playing Liverpool. In previous years Liverpool had handed out many a flogging due to having an exceptional player who dominated the ice, however this year he was no longer there.

These kids may have had limited time on the puck due to their conquering hero, were now expected to compete with other well balanced teams.

The North Stars set up a lead that could easily have blown out to a cricket score and for the kids winning, they would still have smiles ear to ear.

What happened next would make any sporting parent proud.

Newcastle Coach, Rob Duchemin made a call, “When we skate the puck up the ice I don’t want us going past their blue line. Turn the puck over and let them skate it up the ice. Let them score”.

Every child thought about it for a very short moment before all agreeing this is what they would do.

The kids from Liverpool skated the puck up the ice. They gave it 100% and the delight on their faces, was something that really gave you goosebumps when the puck cruised over the line for a goal.

Could this be enough to keep them in the sport, keep them off the X-Box or Playstation?

To them it didn’t matter how or why, it just mattered that they had moments of joy that could galvanise their love of the sport for life.

Four goals later the world seemed a smaller place, they could achieve anything.

All of us watching the game, whether we knew what was happening or not, witnessed something that day, a sense of fair play and great sportsmanship.

As a writer and possible future coach, that moment made me realise that these 8 to 10 year old kids bought into an idea or concept that the sport was bigger then themselves.

If these kids got disenchanted and left the sport, then so did their competition.

These kids will develop into our next generation of Ice Hockey players and future leaders.

Does the same kids names on the scoresheet weaken the team in general??

I also learnt that if I was to be a Coach of any description and for any sport, I could have no greater role model than Rob Duchemin.

The Sydney Ice Arena to be demolished?

Australia is a country that has the issue of a growing sport in Ice Hockey but not enough rinks.

The rumor that the Sydney Ice Arena could be closing will be a devastating blow to the Sydney ice hockey community.

There is a Development Application before the Hills Shire Council from the owners, Hillsong Church LTD to knock down the rink and replace it with 20 storey mixed development units.

The rink has the potential to be one of the best in the country however lack of plexi-glass and poor management have held it back.

In the 2013 season, the management would not let any Sydney Ice Dogs or Sydney Bears players into the rink without checking their bags for alcohol. Is this something that should be done to teams in the AIHL?

Currently the home of the Sydney Bears and the Sydney Sirens the rink is used most weekends for free skating and could be one of the premier rinks in the country.

Although the plan is still to go before the Department of Planning and Infrastructure to have the land rezoned.

The development will include

* Ground floor – retail / restaurants and plaza area;

*Levels 1 to 4 – commercial offices;

* Podium and above – Pool, tennis court, and 15 storeys of residential flats (approximately    240 units) within twin towers;

and

* 6 levels of car parking incorporated into the podium levels.

More to come soon.

http://www.thehills.nsw.gov.au/IgnitionSuite/uploads/docs/ITEM%205%20-%2010%20December%202013.pdf

Newcastle North Stars V Perth Thunder – Semi Final

The Newcastle North Stars had been there before but for the Perth Thunder this was the first time they had stepped out onto the hallowed ice that is AIHL Finals hockey.

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The Thunder looked focused and Coach Stan Scott knew that his team could beat the North Stars, which they had done once this year on home ice however standing in his way was a Gary Dore coached Newcastle side who are confident under pressure.

As the puck dropped the Thunder came out swinging, putting the North Stars on the back foot. The North Stars appeared to have trouble settling into the match as wave after wave of Perth attack lead by Kenny Rolph had the North Stars scrambling.

In a move that shocked many Coach Dore got his third line out on the ice who have been solid all year and the move worked as the withstood the Thunder’s relentless attack. You have to sit back and think that likes of Wetini, Quirk and Stanger have played Finals hockey before and know what’s required.

At 10.34 remaining in the first period, the Thunder got a power play opportunity when, Matt Wetini was sent to the box but instead of staying back in their own zone and defending, the North Stars attacked which paid off when at 9.34, Pier-Olivier Cotnoir slipped the puck past Daniel Clarke for a short handed goal and a 1-0 lead.

The game was going end to end with both sets of defensive teams working overtime to keep the puck out of their zone showing the crowd at the Icehouse some great finals hockey.

With 4.52 remaining in the first period, the Thunder had another great power play opportunity when John Kennedy Jr was sent to sample some pine. The North Stars managed to hang on and kill the penalty.

The Newcastle imports were settling into the match and the likes of Dominic Osman, Jeff Martens and Cotnoir started to control the neutral zone. At 2.45 remaining in the period Jeff Martens showed why he was the leading AIHL point scorer when he found the net and made it 2-0.

With 1.32 remaining in the first the North Stars got their first power play when Sam Wilson was the first Perth player to grab pine giving Perth it’s first opportunity to penalty kill.

The second period opened with the North Stars still on the power play but credit must go to Perth who held the North Stars out.

At 14.05 the North Stars again had the power play opportunity when Dan Mohle was sent to the box. Mohle, who with Rolph had looked dangerous throughout the match was testing Olivier Martin every time they got a shot on net.

Newcastle grabbed the opportunity of the extra man and at 13.47, Pier-Olivier Cotnoir bagged his second play-offs goal for a 3-0 lead.

The North Stars appeared to be on a roll which became more evident when Dominic Osman fired a shot at 9.57 which beat Clarke, giving the North Stars a 4-0.

The Thunder never gave up with Rolph giving his all at the front and a Perth goal was waved off at 7.05 when Olivier Martin’s net dislodged about four seconds before the puck was fired in. Although the goal was waved off it boosted the confidence of the Thunder attack.

With 0.30 remaining in the period, Sam Wilson became the first Thunder player to score a goal in the AIHL Finals series when he dragged the score back to 4-1.

The third period would be twenty minutes of frantic hockey. The Thunder knew what they needed to get back into the game and Newcastle knew what they needed to do to move onto the Grand Final.

Every player on the ice threw themselves into every shot, pass and body check. The hits were solid but clean which had the crowd roaring at the Icehouse and at home on the Livestream.

The North Stars Beau Taylor, who had shown speed and maturity on the ice was the next to taste a finals goal when at 7.35 he gave the North Stars a 5-1 lead.

It would be 40 seconds later that Pier-Olivier Cotnoir would seal the Grand Finals berth for Newcastle when he grabbed a hat trick and a 6-1 victory. Cotnoir summed it up, “It was a good win, they came out with such intensity but we regrouped and weathered the storm. We are an older team and many of us have played big games before which helped. To win tomorrow we need to match the Ice Dogs intensity and score more goals”.

The Thunder had a taste of finals hockey and we can only imagine will be back for more. They played hard and will know what they need to do next year to make the next step. Many sense it is a matter of time.

The North Stars progress to a Grand Final against the favourites for the 2013 Goodall Cup, the Sydney Ice Dogs. In what will be an epic match, we know the Goodall is coming back to NSW for a visit.

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.

 

 

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 – 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