Reigning Goodall Cup champions the Melbourne Ice have started off the 2011 campaign in fine fashion, defeating Melbourne new boys the Mustangs 4-8.
An electrifying first period seen the scoreboard even at the break, 2-2 heading into the first intermission with both teams trying to gain the upper hand. Jason Baclig who was a main part of the Ice's run to the title last season, opened up the scoring early on for the Ice as they tried to stamp their presence as the big boys of Melbourne. But, as they had showed last year, the Mustangs weren't going to be an team easily pushed aside. Star import Scott Corbett dashed clear and put away a superb shot to even things up at 1-1. Trailing 2-1 and looking at a first period deficit, the Mustangs powerplay went into action, pushing the puck around and eventually finding the net to even things up at 2-2.
As the second period of play got under way, the new boys from Melbourne had ever right to feel satisfied with their first official period of play in the AIHL. But, being the true champions that the Melbourne Ice are, they quickly showed not only the Mustangs, but the rest of the competition that they are still the reigning champions and will be very hard to beat this season.
Jason Baclig turned in a superb second period of play, as he pushed through three goals past the Mustangs goalie & effectively putting the game out of reach. Kevin Emore showed exactly why the Ice were keen to get him to Australia & why they pushed him straight into his first game, after barely setting foot in the country. It was a very dominant performance from the Ice in the second period, pushing the puck around with ease and showing some superb individual efforts. Everyone was able to get involved, Armstrong, Baclig, Webster, Emore and Hughes all contributing for the Ice to setup the win.
The third period of play was dominated by penalties for both teams, with the game all but done, one more goal was added to either side. Jason Baclig notching up his fifth for the game & stamping his claim again as one of the leagues best imports and Jack McCoy put away a penalty shot to give the Mustangs their fourth for the night.
With a range of roster changes from the 2010 Championship team, the Melbourne Ice didn't look out of touch for most of the night and will still be a force this season.With Jason Baclig and Lliam Webster still causing defense trouble and fresh import Kevin Emore showing great signs, it looks as though the Ice will once again be a big player this season come playoff time.
The Melbourne Mustangs all though defeated in not only their first game of the season, but first derby game as well, can still hold their heads up high. A bright start turned into what can only be described as a good learning and development game for the squad, they have come up against the best this league has to offer and were able to match them for large parts of the game. More exposure and experience in the AIHL, can only be a good thing for this Mustangs team.
After the opening derby last night, Melbourne should count themselves lucky, as the city is blessed with two superb hockey outfits.
By Andrew Macdougall
By Andrew Macdougall