It is coming to the end of June & while the Australian Ice Hockey League has been very entertaining thus far, two teams stand out from the rest, one being the Newcastle North Stars & the other, defending champions Melbourne Ice.
While the Melbourne Ice have grabbed much of the headlines in recent times, the Newcastle hockey club has been churning out results & players, for over a decade. Four Goodall Cup trophies sitting proudly in the North Stars headquarters, they really are what could be described as a benchmark club in this competition.
Newcastle are a team who has dominated this league since its inception in 2000, having taken home the Goodall Cup four times, more than any other team in the leagues short history. With only 15 games played, the team is ready to add number five to the trophy cabinet. With their top line imports leading the way, Newcastle have not only scored goals on a frequent basis, but they have been able to shut down opposition teams in the process.
Much of the teams success this season falls on the shoulders of forward Peter Cartwright, the Alaskan native has been in fine form with the puck, netting 23 goals & providing 24 assists for his 47 points from just 15 games, it is simply outstanding service for any AIHL team. Of course he isn't alone, Newcastle's three other imports have been nothing short of fantastic. Justin Chwedoruk, Brian Bales & Scott Thauwald have all been amongst the action this season for the North Stars.
It's exactly what is expected of the highly anticipated imports each team sign before every season, high intensity, puck control & of course, the ability to put the puck in the net. Of course, Cartwright isn't a stranger to the AIHL, having played in the 2010 season & put up a total of 82 points. Having Brian Bales back for another season gives Newcastle much needed stability in the Import department & then the additions of Chwedoruk and Thauwald, it looks as though the balance throughout the roster is spot on.
Every great team has to have a deep roster, which is exactly what the North Stars have for the 2011 season. A lot of the limelight is indeed directed towards the imports, but there is a range of Australian talent holding their own this season. Defender Robert Starke continues to improve, having one of his most productive seasons to date in the AIHL, turning back the clock to his superb 2009 season, where the North Stars were runners up in the AHIL final.
Having home grown players being able to perform at a high standard right next to their import counter parts, is what showcases the teams even ability across all areas of the roster. Young Australian forwards such as Beau Taylor provide much needed spark below the top lines, having already played for the former AIHL club Central Coast Rhinos, his improvement this season has been enormous & will provide Newcastle plenty throughout the grind of an ice hockey season.
Newcastle are definitely a club which demands the best & has often produced it since the AIHL began in 2000, this season is one like no other. They have been dominant, tested & brilliant so far this season, the North Stars are well and truly skating towards an AIHL record, fifth Goodall Cup.