Top Points Scorer: Matt Armstrong (39)
Top Goalie: Both – starter Dahlen Phillips (.887 SV%) has more games, but Jaden Pine-Smith’s save percentage over four games is stellar (.928 SV%)
Biggest Win: 16-0, Canberra Knights
Halfway through the season, the Melbourne Ice are continuing the dominance of the league that has become a trademark of Ice hockey.
The organisation’s ability to sign and keep high scoring, defensively responsible imports has had a notable impact on the team this year. The imports have been supported by a group of locals that obviously train hard and have all the hallmarks of a cohesive group that will continue to develop together in years to come.
The biggest story coming out of Ice territory may well be the mid-season suddden retirement of Joey and Vinnie Hughes. The Ice released a brief statement about the Hughes’ departure and it has been quiet on that front since. Without high pressure media to poke around and find out what happened, no story has been told and all that remains of the unexpected event is an uneasy feeling that all is not as well as it appears to be for the Ice behind closed doors.
Whatever the case, it does not seem to have affected the on ice performance of the team. The Ice have hit the mid-season point with a five game winning streak and look set to continue to win.
The Canadian trio of Armstrong, Baclig and Gordon have racked up points and consistently been at the top of the scoring ladder for the season thus far.
Matt Armstrong – Armstrong has continued his stellar play in the AIHL. The left winger is 30, but is still whipping around the ice like he did during his days in the Ontario Hockey League. His hockey sense puts him at the right place at the right time and his teammates know to get the puck to him if they want it to end up in the net. Armstrong currently leads the league in points, two ahead of the North Stars’ Jeff Martens.
Jason Baclig – The tiny captain’s lack of size hasn’t hindered his ability to put up points. His speed and work ethic allow him to get the job done. He’s provided a consistent offensive presence every game. He has only been kept off the scoreboard twice this season, once against the Adrenaline and the other against the North Stars.
John Gordon – Newcomer Gordon has provided good offensive support, but also a fearsome defensive presence for the Ice. He’s 6th on the scoring ladder with 30 points and 4th in penalty minutes with 60. When he’s having a good night, it’s hard to slow him down and his go hard attitude will help the Ice out down the stretch.
Joey and Vinnie Hughes - They were out the door before the mid-season mark even came along and any return to semi-professional hockey seems unlikely. The Ice will be feeling their absence come the playoffs. To the team’s benefit, their early departure will provide ample opportunity for more locals to step in and play a more significant role, especially with Joey’s minutes up for grabs.
The Ice are a consistent powerhouse in the AIHL. Good showings from the North Stars and Ice Dogs have kept them in check. Hopefully that will make for a good second half of the season, keeping the competition close. Rating – Solid A
The Ice will be in the playoffs. Their consistency will see to it. If they can use their experience and polish to keep nipping at the North Stars’ heels, they’ll be in good stead for the final tournament.
Final season position – 2nd.