MELBOURNE MUSTANGS (2-5-1-1) at SYDNEY BEARS (2-4-2-3)
The Sydney Bears will be hoping to get back on track after three consecutive losses. Their last home game at the Macquarie Ice Rink saw the team winning 8-4 over the Perth Thunder and they’ll need to find that sort of form once more to ensure they remain a chance at heading to the finals weekend.
It’s the same story for the Melbourne Mustangs though, with a couple of games in hand that they must win to keep pace with the rest of the pack. Thus far this year they’ve had the Bears’ number, recording one regulation win and one shootout win when the Sydney side visited Melbourne.
BEARS’ KEYS TO VICTORY
KEEP CALM: As is often the case during the ‘Battle of Sydney’, tempers get frayed and penalties come thick and fast. The Bears need to ensure there is no hangover from last night’s game and that calm heads ensue.
USE THE POWERPLAY: After failing to score, despite seven powerplay opportunities, it’s clear this element of the Bears’ game needs to improve. Against the Mustangs, they need to find the same form as earlier in the year where the powerplay was lighting the lamp often.
LIMIT SHOOTING CHANCES: Across the two games with the Mustangs this season, the Bears have given up eighty shots. They need to turn this statistic around and let Anthony Kimlin have a quieter night if they’re to be successful.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Tomas Landa (Forward) – Tomas has been held off the scoresheet in the past two games and the effect on the team has been noticeable. Landa leads by example for the team, both in breaking forward and in his willingness to follow up with a strong forecheck. His eleven points this year have often come at vital junctures of the games, either breaking the deadlock or ensuring the eventual result. If Tomas can get his scoring touch back, the Bears have every chance in the game.
LAST TIME OUT
May 28 - Bears 5 at Mustangs 6 (SO)
The Bears coughed up seemingly endless shots on net and gave their opposition seven powerplay opportunities. For a long while though, it seemed like they might escape with a closely fought victory. They proved strong on every single penalty-kill and were actually leading 5-2 with ten minutes remaining. Unfortunately for them, they proceeded to concede two goals in two minutes, meaning that the final six minutes was a fight to escape with the win. Anton Kokkenen sent this one to a shootout with eight seconds remaining and the Mustangs were able to sneak in the victory.
Their placement at the bottom of the ladder is somewhat deceiving as they’ve played two less games than the Bears and actually have just as many regulation wins. The biggest difference is that the Mustangs have been thoroughly outplayed on occasion, notably during their 9-0 loss to their cross-town rivals.
The arrival of a new goaltender in James Kruger, was expected to calm the side and offer more opportunity to attack as opposed to defend. On first glance, this wasn’t quite the case against the Northstars with the new goalie conceding six times on debut. The Mustangs did, however, continue their trend towards putting many shots on net, challenging the Newcastle goaltender with 41 shots.
Sydney Bears’ defenceman Nick Rivait lined up against Melbourne Mustangs’ captain, Jamie Bourke last weekend for the AIHL All-Star game. Nick emerged, alongside his goaltender Anthony Kimlin on the winning side, netting a pair of goals. Also on that winning side and scoring twice was Mustangs’ forward Sean Jones.
Whilst everyone enjoyed the friendly rivalry of the game last weekend, this weekend will be business as usual with no hits and shots spared as the mid-season push towards the finals weekend continues to heat up.
Photo Credit: Tania Chalmers
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