Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Match Focus: Ice Dogs v Bears

Sydney Ice Dogs v Sydney Bears
June 23, Sydney Ice Arena - 6:00pm

Derby games are a fixture everybody wants to see across all sporting codes & with the return of the Sydney derby this weekend between the Ice Dogs & Bears, I have picked this game as my weekly match focus. There is a lot on the line for both clubs, so i expect it to be anything but a regular derby match.

The two teams head into the match with totally different form lines, the Bears coming off a loss to Newcastle, while the Ice Dogs fought out a tough encounter to return home with an important shootout victory.

The Bears are looking to turn around their form & hope for a late post season position, something i don't actually see coming to fruition going by their recent results. 

The derby is a definitely a MUST win for the Bears, it's a do or die fixture as they keep falling behind the teams above them in the Bauer Conference. The bonus that the Bears have at the moment, is the games in hand they have on two of the teams that currently sit above them. 

Will that prove vital? It's a possibility.

But putting your fate into other teams hands is never a good thing, relying on results to go your way is asking for trouble.

For the Ice Dogs it's a case of continuing to grind out results, just to keep the pressure on the top of the standings North Stars. 5 wins from their last 7 games sees them entering the game in pretty good shape, they too have a game in hand on Newcastle, something which could become vital once the weekend of action is done.

There is all the possibility that after this weekend of AIHL action, we could all see a new Bauer Conference leader. Of course that means they would need the traveling Mustangs to upset the North Stars & then get results themselves.

So let's just concentrate on this week shall we? Although it's hard not to think of the prospect of a new Bauer Conference leader.

Looking over the month of June the Bears 'should' look to force the Ice Dogs into penalties, something that the Ice Dogs haven't been able to control this month. 85 PIM v Adrenaline, 89 PIM v Knights shows that the Bears should attack the Ice Dogs physically from the opening puck drop, force them to make rash decisions & fill up that penalty box.

Efficiency in front of goal is also an area the Bears need to improve if they are to get anything from the match, in recent weeks we have seen the Bears shoot, and shoot a lot. All the while getting little to no reward, last weekend against the North Stars is a testament to that, leading the shot count 30-19 yet failing to take the win.

Get them on target & get them into dangerous positions early, it's vital for the Bears.

I expect the Ice Dogs to come out energetic for this one, they will be looking to put more & more pressure on the conference leading North Stars. Losing to the Bears won't be an option for them, they will be to looking to put this game away early & then shift their focus to another important match up, at home to the Mustangs.

Not counting out the Bears at all, a few early shots on target & hitting the net more importantly, could see a confidence lift throughout the squad & get them in the mood for more at home ice.

All things considered though, i expect the Ice Dogs to win 4-2.

Sydney Ice Dogs

Last 5: WWLLW
Standings: 2nd, Bauer Conference

Sydney Bears

Last 5: LLWLW
Standings: 4th, Bauer Conference

Last Meeting: Sydney Bears 2-5 Sydney Ice Dogs, Liverpool Catholic Club's Ice Rink

Key Player: Scott Stephenson (8 goals, 5 assists) - The Australian international has been in fine form during the early part of June, having scored in every match the Ice Dogs have played this month. His shooting stick is running hot at the moment, Ice Dogs will be hoping the trend continues, while the Bears will need to stop the Sydney native from getting anywhere near shooting range.

By Andrew Macdougall

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