The 2012 AIHL season kicked off in style last weekend, crowds were buzzing, teams were hitting & teams were scoring. Finally the off season transactions & friendly fixtures were finished, the real stuff had arrived.
With opening weekend kicking off all eyes were on the Melbourne derby, and who could blame you?
The inclusion of the Melbourne Mustangs last season has definitely spiced up the ice hockey talk in Melbourne, and in true Melbourne Ice fashion, their home opener was a packed house. More than 1,700 fans piled into the Medibank Icehouse to witness an entertaining match between two growing rivals, the Goodall Cup champions were tested, but they answered in emphatic style, scoring late & then getting the win in a shootout.
The derby in Melbourne was just one of many games across the weekend which showed the nation, that not only was the AIHL back, but it's back bigger & better than ever.
The other derby game which took place was between the Sydney Ice Dogs & Sydney Bears, the Bears took first blood as they defeated the Ice Dogs 5-2. It was another jam packed arena, with the Bears opening their new home for the first time. Derby games are always intense, it never matters where you are table wise, first or last game, you always want to win. Sydney Bears will take joy from the opening day victory, but, it could well be short lived. As the Ice Dogs look for revenge, they host the Bears this weekend in what will surely be another enthralling derby match.
Seven games in total were held across the weekend, in Newcastle fans were also experiencing nail biting hockey. As the North Stars & Blue Tongues battled it out, one goal the only difference on the night with Newcastle taking the honours thanks to a late 2nd period goal from Brian Bales.
Over in Canberra, it was a case of the one man show. Knights goalie Mike Brown put in a terrific shift, saving 60 of 62 shots as the Adelaide Adrenaline players struggled to get anything past Brown, who was in red hot form in front of the net all game.
There was a total of 56 goals across two match days on opening weekend, fans love goals, it's what we watch hockey for & to a larger scale sport. And if the opening matches are any indication of the season ahead, fans will be treated to some exciting hockey.
Moving onto this weekend we see the emergence of Perth Thunder, who officially enter the competition for the first time in 2012, and by all reports the place is an expected sell out. The expansion of Perth was big news for everyone at AIHL headquarters in the off season, I look forward in anticipation to what Perth will bring to the game of hockey in this country. I am sure the people of Perth will be treated to an exciting & prosperous hockey club for years to come, Perth will no doubt be looking to make the trip daunting for any other side in the AIHL.
It's great to just have hockey back, off seasons seem like centuries for us fans, hearing the slap of the puck, crash of the boards & sound of the arena goal horn, has finally soothed the thousands of hockey souls.
By Andrew Macdougall