Thursday, June 28, 2012

Match Focus: Ice Dogs v Thunder

Sydney Ice Dogs v Perth Thunder
June 30, Perth Ice Arena - 4:30pm

This weekend the AIHL is throwing up a few really good match ups. But the one match up which i think is the pick of the bunch, is the Ice Dogs v Thunder this Saturday afternoon from Perth Ice Arena. It's interesting for all sorts of reasons, standings, recent form, result implications & of course it's the first time they have met in season 2012.

With Perth's recent form & the Ice Dogs momentum slowly building week by week, it's a match up which has all the trademarks to be one of the best for season 2012. Both clubs have been able to keep things tidy on the defensive end so far throughout the month of June, with the Ice Dogs only real blow out coming at the hands of the Adrenaline away.

Perth have won four games on the trot & have rocketed up the Easton Conference standings, they sit only 4 points behind the second placed Adrenaline with a game in hand. Coming away from Brisbane with back to back wins is a tough ask, so confidence will be sky high in the Thunder dressing room heading into this week.

One of the reasons for Perth's recent good form has not only come from the return of key figures onto the ice, but also their ability to defend. So far Perth have only conceded 10 goals in the month of June, which is considerably less when you compare it the 27 goals which they let in throughout May. It's a big improvement for the Western Australian club, being organised defensively is what wins championship down the stretch of a long season & playoff run. 

Perth still have to get to the playoffs, but all indications show that they are improving by the week & improving in the right areas.

The Ice Dogs momentum is something worth taking into consideration also, they have been slowly building each week & getting the right results when needed. A derby win last Saturday followed up by a victory against the Melbourne Mustangs sits them in a great position heading into the tough fixture that is Perth & Melbourne Ice away. Once again they will be looking for the likes of Casey Mignone & Scott Stephenson to gets things going offensively, but defensively is where things will be won.

Ice Dogs will be looking to replicate the shutout victory over the Mustangs, doing that against a Perth team who have scored 12 goals in two games won't be easy. Although if James Herbert continues in goals for the Dogs, things will be looking a lot more secured when the first puck drops.

With the AIHL heading into the latter part of the season the result for both teams is massive.

Sydney looking to keep up standings pressure on the North Stars in the Bauer Conference, while out west the Thunder will no doubt be looking for all the points in front of what will surely be a capacity crowd. Perth can sniff a playoff berth, something that a lot of people wouldn't have been predicting at the start of the season, or even before the Queens birthday weekend.

Can Perth continue this hot streak? Or will the Ice Dogs show the new boys whose boss?

I predict the game to be very tight, with both clubs holding up defensively. Perth 3-2 (shootout) winners.

Sydney Ice Dogs

Last 5: WWWWL
Standings: 2nd, Bauer Conference

Perth Thunder

Last 5: WWWWL
Standings: 3rd, Easton Conference

Last Meeting: First meeting for season 2012.

Key Player: James Herbert (SV% .882, W 4, L 1) - The Ice Dogs goalie will be key to the club heading out west & coming away with the victory, with both clubs showing good defensive abilities so far this month Herbert in goal will be central to that. A shutout victory last start against the Mustangs will have Herbert feeling confident, Ice Dogs fans will be hoping for a replica come Saturday afternoon.

By Andrew Macdougall

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