The Bears started strongly, pressuring the Ice Dogs out of the gate but trailed at the end of the first period. For a team that had no full contact pre-season warm-up games, they came out of the gate more than willing to lay hits, which were reciprocated in turn by their opposition. The early going saw the Bears working into the zone and not giving up on the puck all too easily, however, they were undone by Ice Dogs counter-attacks, with more than a couple of odd-man rushes that needed to be cleaned up by Anthony Kimlin in net.
Stephen Johnston was able to squeak the puck past Kimlin shorthanded on one of these rushes, showing their value in terms of the game outcome. The period ended with an equal seven shots on net for both teams, with a combination of accuracy on other shot attempts and solid goaltending proving the difference-maker.
Penalties tallied up for the Bears in the second, but the penalty kill was strong. The penalties racked up for both teams, but the Bears were held accountable by the officials more often than not in the second period. This affected the amount of time spent in the offensive zone, though there were definite chances on the break-out that were unfortunately blocked by the Ice Dogs import goaltender.
The game itself showed all the hallmarks of the usual #SydneyBattle with neither Sydney side willing to back down from a fight, with on-ice tensions appearing to boil over on a few occasions. The Bears ended the second period, out-shot heavily 10 to 2 mostly due to spending large chunks of time killing penalties.
Third period fightback denied by strong goaltending. The Bears had the best of the chances in the third period but were thwarted by the Dogs new goaltender. Pushing hard to find an equalising goal, the puck seemingly would end up anywhere but in the Dogs’ net. The Dogs themselves were able to give us a couple of scares though, with the pipes dinged and Kimlin and his defensive corps needing to stand strong.
Set-up play was looking particularly impressive given this was the first game of the year, with Richard Tesarik finding a home behind the net and returning imports, Ryan Annesley and Brent Vandenburg showing their strengths as part of the powerplay unit.
One final charge was not enough. The Bears threw on the extra attacker with just over a minute left but it wasn’t enough. A couple of face-off losses and a strong zone clearance by the Dogs limited the ability of the Bears to make use of the sixth skater.
Aside from the result, #TheHomecoming was successful. A bumper crowd packed into the newly renovated Macquarie Ice Rink and the action certainly should have plenty of the first-time AIHL fans coming back. Whilst both teams showed up defensively to keep the score low, there was no lack of want or desire to win and claim the first blood in the #SydneyBattle.
For game one of the year, everything was looking mighty positive and can only continue to improve as the team work on their systems and further new talent arrives in the country following their respective playoff seasons overseas.
Comments will be approved before showing up.