The Easton Conference was always going to be one to look out for, it contains two of the powerhouse clubs in the AIHL & both are fighting for the top spot. Adelaide Adrenaline & Melbourne Ice are both making claims to be the top dogs of the Easton AIHL standings, while the three other teams Blue Tongues, Mustangs & Thunder try to stake their own claim to be apart of the debate, but the past weekend it was the Melbourne Ice who made the big impression.
Melbourne took back to back wins against the Adrenaline, which once again shifted the power towards the reigning champions. With 9 games played between the two teams, it's still a tight race with only 2 points separating both Adelaide & the Ice. But the two wins for the Melbourne Ice could become very vital late in the season as teams all make their playoff push, head to head battles are so important, getting the upper hand in blockbuster games this early in the season was so crucial in the make up of the conference.
It gives the Ice that extra edge, over what is becoming a very fierce rivalry between the two teams. The Melbourne Ice are looking to become the first team to win 3 successive Goodall Cup championships, the feat has never occurred since the introduction of club teams winning the trophy. They travel up to face Gold Coast this coming weekend, it won't be all sunshine & rainbows as the Blue Tongues will be looking to put more pain on the Ice in 2012.
For Adelaide it's a tough two weeks of competition coming up, they return home for one game this weekend against the Sydney Ice Dogs & then they make the long trip across to face Perth. Getting results against Perth at the Perth Ice Arena won't be easy, Perth will cause problems & won't allow any teams to come away with easy victories.
You would expect the Adrenaline to have enough fire power to beat Perth, it's what title contenders do, they always find a way to win. The mindset of the Adelaide players could also depend on the Ice's upcoming schedule, if the Ice can't find a way past Gold Coast this weekend, there could be a lot more at stake for the Adelaide hockey club.
The other side of Melbourne, the Melbourne Mustangs IHC are starting to build a little momentum. They traveled to Perth and came home with two wins from two games played, which has put the club right back into the playoff picture & has kept their pulse beating. Things started out a little shaky, but the travel to Perth has moved the Mustangs into double figures on the points tally & they will be looking to build on their hard fought wins against Perth when they return to face one of the inform teams from the Bauer Conference, the Sydney Ice Dogs.
The Gold Coast Blue Tongues are also still sniffing around the top two teams, they share the same 10 points total as the Mustangs, which sits them in 3rd place. They face the defending champions this week in what will prove to be an important fixture in their season, a win & it keeps the team close, two wins puts them right back in the thick of the conferences top spot.
Gold Coast will be boosted by the result of their last match up against the Ice, beating them 4-0 at the Icehouse in Melbourne. Mike McRae is once again the main man up north, but he has been given vital support from new import Andreas Camenzind who has proven to be a potent left shooting forward for the Tongues, both players sitting inside he top 10 points scorers for the league. They have had a week off from the AIHL, so they will be well rested & ready for back to back games against the countries top club.
The final team in the Easton Conference is the Perth Thunder, a team new to the competition & with only 1 win from 7 games played. Perth's biggest issue from what i can see isn't keeping the puck out of their net, it's trying to get the puck past the opposing goalie.
There will be many twists & turns to come for the Easton Conference, but it is already shaping up as the most intriguing conference in the AIHL.
By Andrew Macdougall