Browse Author: Hockey-Admin

The importance of rink crowd-capacities in the AIHL

 Australian Ice Hockey

Traditionally, ice hockey is not a sport you’d associate with Australia.

However, in recent years the sport has increased in popularity here. Bigger crowds are now turning out to watch Australian Ice Hockey League games, and there is a greater opportunity for kids to learn how to play the game.

With the rapid progression of technology and social media over the last decade, world-famous ice hockey leagues such as the NHL of North America and the KHL of Russia are a lot more accessible to fans all over the globe.

Games can be broadcast live and streamed on laptops, clips can be shared on facebook news feeds and match notifications and statistics can be sent straight to your phone.

This has undoubtedly been a large factor in the rise of Australian ice hockey. You only have to take a look around at AIHL games to spot a mix of NHL jerseys littered amongst those of the AIHL teams. Clearly plenty of Aussies are hungry for ice hockey to sink its skates firmly in Australian ice.

However, the AIHL is a semi-professional league. A bigger proportion of the fanbase attend the games in comparison with the aforementioned leagues.

There is a strong case for the argument that a huge part of semi-professional ice hockey stems from experiencing the game in person and soaking up the atmosphere, with less emphasis on post-match media and journalism in comparison to professional leagues.

Therefore it makes logical sense that if ice hockey in Australia is to continue to snowball in popularity then the venues for the games will need to improve to meet the demand of the fans. There needs to be reliable rinks with higher crowd capacities.

The Medibank Icehouse is home to the Melbourne Mustangs and the Melbourne Ice. It’s the best venue in the league. With two Olympic-sized rinks, one of which has a 1,000 seat capacity, it can be considered a world-class facility.

Apart from the game-day attributes, the Icehouse boasts a busy daily schedule of public skates, lessons and ice hockey training sessions.

Subsequently, the fanbases of the Mustangs and the Ice have both dramatically increased since it opened in 2010. If other teams in the league had the same quality of arenas as the two Melbourne teams currently do, perhaps we would see an even bigger rise in AIHL-followers.

Take the Sydney Ice Dogs for example. A great organisation with some great players, yet they play their games at the Liverpool Catholic Club Ice Rink which has a seating capacity of 500. A regular season home game there might see around 450 supporters attend the game.

This is a strong contrast to some of the Melbourne Ice games that can often sell-out of all 1,000 seats. Melbourne derby games are especially jam-packed.

The point to realise here is that clearly the restrictions of the rink have a big impact on the size of the fanbase. The Melbourne Ice’s fanbase eclipses that of the the Syndey Ice Dog’s, and the Medibank Icehouse has double the capacity of the Liverpool Catholic Club.

There will of course be a multitude of other reasons that affect how many followers a club will attract. Some argue that the quality of play of a sports team, and their overall success on the ice or the field, often dictates the size of the fanbase.

But one thing’s for sure, if clubs such as the Ice Dogs and the Ice regularly come close to selling out home game tickets, a bigger arena is needed. A semi-professional league is more dependent on game attendances than professional leagues, to both help improve the fanbase and to help boost team revenue (which is additionally important for further team development).

Some AIHL teams now stream games live in an effort to improve publicity. The Melbourne Mustangs games for example are generally streamed by 1,200 to 1,500 people. This is only roughly twice their normal game attendance.

If you compared the number of people watching an NHL regular-season game either on TV or via the internet against the number of people at the game itself, with that of AIHL games, the ratios would be much much different.

This signals the importance of crowd capacities in AIHL rinks, and leads to the question: As good as the Medibank Icehouse is, has the AIHL outgrown even this venue?

Top 10 Goals from the 2013-2014 NHL Season

Before we begin to look ahead to the upcoming NHL season, let’s take one more look back at the best of last season. We saw plenty of unbelievable goals. Here are the top 10:

Honorable Mention: Steven Stamkos scores Baseball-style

This goal was originally called off, but it was ruled a good goal after review. What a beauty, though. Ondrej Palat takes the first shot that hit the crossbar, and Stamkos is right there to bat the rebound in. Stamkos is one of the most talented goal scorers in the league. It takes a lot of concentration and coordination to bat a puck out of the air like he did. Stamkos will continue to find ways to amaze us with his goals.

10. Corey Perry scores from his knees vs. New York Islanders

No legs? No problem. Perry gets tripped up but keeps the puck through the slot and scores an unbelievable goal on his knees. Perry is an absolute stud with Anaheim, and he is a big reason why they are consistently good year after year. Lost in all this is the beautiful no-look pass fromDaniel Winnik to start the play. That’s the kind of chemistry that linemates need to have.

9. Seth Jones‘ game-winner in Montreal

This was one of the few amazing highlights from the Predators last year. Jones executes the give-and-go with David Legwand to perfection and shows great patience as he toe-drags around the Canadiens defense to score the eventual game-winner. You can even hear Predators color commentator Terry Crisp laughing in amazement in the background. Jones is not even 20 years old, and he’s already making a big impact for the Predators.

8. Nathan Mackinnon’s gorgeous first playoff goal vs. Minnesota Wild

This youngster is too good. He breaks up the ice with tremendous speed and breaks a defender’s ankles before sniping one past Ilya Bryzgalov. This was Mackinnon’s first playoff goal of his career. That goal had everyone in the hockey world talking. However, Mackinnon’s skill was not enough, as the Avalanche fell in seven games to the Wild. Some call him the nextSidney Crosby. At this rate, that’s a fair comparison.

7. Corey Tropp turns Pittsburgh inside-out

Tropp gets a great feed as he dekes around a defender and buries it behind goalie Jeff Zatkoff. You won’t see dangles like that just anywhere. Columbus had a breakout year last season, and they will continue to make the highlight reel next year.

6. Ales Hemsky makes Tampa Bay look silly

Hemsky electrifies the crowd with an unbelievable individual effort as he dangles through his legs around the defense and puts one past goalie Ben Bishop. What else would you expect from Hemsky? After being traded from Edmonton to Ottawa at the trade deadline, Hemsky found his groove with the Senators. You can catch more goals like this from him next year with the Dallas Stars.

5. Nick Foligno goes between-the-legs on Tampa Bay

Yeesh, bad luck for Tampa Bay. A great forecheck leads to a wide-open Foligno in front of the net who puts the puck between his legs and scores for the Blue Jackets. You can be sure the crowd was fired up after that one. The announcers even gave a shootout to Fox Sports Live’s “The 1″ countdown. It was certainly the top play that night.

4. Nathan Gerbe pulls off the between-the-legs in Philadelphia

Ah, another between-the-legs beauty. The short but speedy Gerbe takes the puck and walks in alone on Steve Mason for a wonderful goal. Gerbe may be small, but he’s an unbelievably skilled player.

3. Tomas Tatar renders the Dallas defense useless

You know you’re good when you make the defensemen fall over each other. That’s exactly what Tomas Tatar did here. He breaks into the zone, makes two Dallas defensemen crash into each other, then buries one past Kari Lehtonen. As announcer Ken Daniels put it, “I don’t know how he did it, but he did it.”

2. Claude Giroux scores from the weirdest angle possible

Wow. Just wow. It doesn’t get much better than that (actually, just wait for #1). Giroux is falling to the ice and almost parallel to the net when he shovels a backhander on goal that somehow goes in. How he was able to elevate that shot at all, I haven’t the slightest idea. The Columbus goalie was hugging the post very well, too. There was almost no room for that puck to go in. But, it did. Sometimes, the Hockey Gods are on your side.

1. Tomas Hertl sends Marty Biron into retirement

There is no doubt that this is the goal of the year. In his coming-out party, Hertl had already scored three goals when he took the puck into the Rangers zone and put the puck between his legs before wristing it by goalie Marty Biron. He shocked everyone: the Rangers, his teammates, the fans, and the announcers. This may not be the reason why, but shortly after this game, Marty Biron announced his retirement from the NHL. Hertl had a breakout year before being sidelined with an injury. Some say the Sharks are an old team. Hertl is keeping them young.

Ron Kuprowsky and Sydney Ice Dogs part ways

The Sydney Ice Dogs have been dealt a major blow to their 2014 Australian Ice Hockey League season with Head Coach Ron Kuprowsky resigning from his post, along with his coaching staff Colin Dowie and Brad Andrlon effective immediately.ice dogs logo

Breaking news from the AIHL social media outlets stating Kuprowsky would be resigning from his position filtered through late Thursday night.

On the Fly Hockey learned via a source that the news from the Ice Dogs wasn’t just limited to Kuprowsky, with the entire coaching staff parting ways from the Sydney club.

This was later confirmed in an official release from Andrew McMurtry of the AIHL website.

Kuprowsky had been at the helm of the Sydney club since 2010 and guided the Ice Dogs to their second Goodall Cup in 2013.

Born in Edmonton, Canada, Kuprowsky played for the Central Coast Rhinos and Ice Dogs from 2005 to 2007, before moving into the Sydney head coaching role in 2011.

Taking over the Sydney Ice Dogs in 2011, Kuprowsky would go on to have three successful seasons as coach reaching the semi-finals in 2011 and 2012, and the Goodall Cup final in 2013.

It would be third time’s the charm for Kuprowsky, as the Ice Dogs would take out the championship in 2013 after an impressive season where they would finish atop of the AIHL standings.

The news rocked the AIHL community, with many showing their disbelief via social media platforms Facebook and Twitter. The news and decision couldn’t have come at worse time for the Ice Dogs, with the 2014 AIHL season already in full swing.

Looking to move forward the Sydney Ice Dogs have confirmed that Dion Dunwoodie, Anthony Wilson and Mark Page have agreed to take over the coaching of the team in the interim.

With the AIHL season already in its third week, Sydney will need to regroup quickly if they are to defend their Goodall Cup crown in 2014.

A Storm is coming!

With the 2012 NHL Entry Draft just the around the corner, it has added emphasis for Australians this time around. Our very own Nathan Walker has the opportunity to be the first ever Australian drafted into the NHL since Darren Gani was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in 1984, ranked the 25th best European skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau, it’s no wonder the people of Australia are excited.

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Nathan Walker was born in Wales, traveled to Australia with his parents at the young age of 2 years old. Where his initial love wasn’t for the cold ice rinks of Australia, but following in his fathers footsteps as he tried to pursue a career in the sport of rugby league.

This is something i also found rather stagering about the whole situation he finds himself in now, it’s the sheer fact that he played rugby league at a young age for the Cronulla Sharks & only truly focused on hockey later in life.  And now he finds himself embarking on a career in one of the worlds biggest competitions, the NHL.

Like most Australian hockey fans i find myself excited with the thought of Walker being drafted into the NHL, and it’s not just the fact that it could be a landmark moment for Nathan, but it could also prove to be a landmark moment for Ice Hockey Australia & the entire AIHL organisation.

If the drafting does occur, news will immediately filter back from the states & fill up all the radio, newspapers & TV coverage throughout the nation. Is that putting too much pressure on the kid? Possibly.

But i think the description of Australia’s Wayne Gretzky holds a heavier tag, as The Telegraph described Nathan Walker set to be first Australian to break into the NHL.

Walker moved to Europe in search of hockey, joining HC Vítkovice Steel U18 team, with things moving along nicely in the Extraliga U18 competition. The first major news Nathan made overseas was at junior level in the Czech Republic, he was able to score 6 goals in a match & things kept getting better as he made his way into the Vítkovice U20 squad.

Since then Walker has represented Australia & helped them win promotion to the IIHF Championship Division 1 back in 2011, he also represented HC Vítkovice Steel in the 2011 Spengler Cup. There he went on to make more headlines as he became the youngest player to score in Spengler Cup history, something which just added to the list of impressive honours he has personally accomplished so early in his career.

He had a short stint in the AIHL with the Sydney Ice Dogs before heading back over to the Czech Republic, and even though we don’t get to see Nathan in the flesh a whole lot, the Australian ice hockey community is very proud of Stormy.

His short stature is something which was always going to be a draw back when NHL clubs looked at Walker, but as Vítkovice captain Jiří Burger said last year, he makes up for his size in other areas “Sure, Nathan is on the small side, but he makes up for it with great skating.”

Talk about Nathan is now world wide, with major hockey forums like HF Boards also spreading the Walker name.

We can only wish that another thing to add to the list of his hockey honours is being drafted by an NHL club this year, from there, things are in Walkers hands & he can skate as far as he wants with it.

Not only will millions across North America be tuning into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but a whole country down under, i hope gets on board & supports one of our most talented young athletes.

At the age of 18 years Walker could be a perfect poster boy to carry the sport in this country into the next decade, so find a TV set, tune in on June 23-24 & celebrate what could be a great moment in Australia’s sporting history.

Will you be watching?

Southern Stampede begin NZIHL season with unprecedented streak

The current New Zealand Ice Hockey League record for longest winning streak is eight games, set by the 2012 Southern Stampede. After a middling start to the 2012 campaign, the Stampede rallied hard and won the final eight games of the season, though they lost the finals to the Canterbury Red Devils.

In 2015, the Stampede are close to breaking their own record, though this time they’re doing it right out the gate.

The team has swept every other NZIHL club in a double-header, starting with the Botany Swarm, then moving on to the West Auckland Admirals, Canterbury Red Devils, and Dunedin Thunder. Their eight wins include two overtime wins, so they are sitting at 22 points rather than the maximum of 24.

To what can the team attribute their newfound success? Was last year–in which they finished in the middle of the pack–a fluke? The Stampede’s roster was no stranger to injury last year, but all signs point to offseason improvements driving their winning record rather than bad luck the year prior.

For starters, new head coach Adam Blanchettewhose player retirement I covered last year–has had a positive impact in the locker room. Beloved by his teammates both old and new, Blanchette is regarded as a solid, defensively-minded presence who coaches like he played. He was a star defender for the Stampede prior to his retirement and this shows in the systems he’s developed on the bench. Blanchette encourages an active forecheck and heavy pressure through the neutral zone, both aspects of the Stampede’s game that have stood out this year.

“Coach Blanchette has everyone on the same page regarding the forecheck in the offensive and neutral zone which is leading to our team success in creating turnovers. It’s when guys start doing their own thing out there problems start to occur but to this point in the season the team has been pretty good in those areas,” Stampede forward Greg Collins told me after the team’s wins over the Dunedin Thunder.

The addition of defenseman Mitchell Frear to the Stampede lineup certainly doesn’t hurt either. Frear was a standout defender on the Dunedin Thunder, but has since returned to Queenstown to play for his original team. Frear is an active defender who covers a lot of space, utilising clever stick work and positioning to be effective both at even strength and on the penalty kill. He’s the type of player who fits right into the Stampede team that Blanchette is building and in turn, Blanchette utilises him perfectly.

Import defender Luke Frey was a steal for the Stampede this offseason. He’s an exceptionally mobile two-way defender who’s at home on either end of the ice, be it breaking up plays in front of the crease or lurking at the point to fire off his rocket of a wrister. Frey has taken much-needed pressure off the Stampede’s top four D, who struggled visibly last year once a concussion took Blanchette out of the lineup. To sweeten the pot even further, Frey has 8 goals and 11 assists through 8 games.

While the Stampede’s defense has stood out, providing plenty of support for starting goaltender Aston Brookes, Brookes’ play can’t be ignored. He’s having a career season, currently sitting pretty at the top of the NZIHL’s goaltending charts. He’s number one in both GAA and save percentage, currently stopping 91% of shots and allowing only 2.83 goals per game. Brookes has come up big for his squad in all sorts of situations this year, from a heart-stopping shootout win against the Swarm to a game where he kept the offensive juggernaut Red Devils to a single goal.

Last but certainly not least, the Stampede added much-needed offensive firepower to their roster. While they have had a dependable pair of scoring forwards in Mike McRae and Matt Schneider for years, the unfortunate truth was that if a team was able to effectively shut down the Schneider line, they could often neutralise the entire team. Not so in 2015. The current Stampede squad has been able to spread their talent around a bit, which has had the dual benefit of more goals scored and top-six experience for some of their up-and-comers.

The Stampede acquired a pair of high-octane point scorers in Jade Portwood and former ECHL talent Greg Collins, who just finished a season together in the UK. They played together for the EIHL’sEdinburgh Capitals, where Portwood wore the C and both players finished top five in scoring. Their numbers can’t be overlooked–9G and 10A for Portwood, 7G and 11A for Collins–but equally valuable is that their potency draws top defenders from the opposition, thus giving the Schneider-Lee-McRae line much needed breathing room.

Young Stampede forward Callum Burns, fresh off a fantastic World Juniors performance and now wearing the A for his home team, has benefited tremendously from his position on a line with Collins and Portwood. He’s already a rising star in the NZIHL and pairing him with such talented linemates is an excellent exercise in player management by Blanchette.

Burns is learning from the best, scoring more, and skating with more confidence than he ever has.

Of course, judging by their results so far, the same could be said for his entire team. If the Southern Stampede can manage one more victory, they will best their own record for the NZIHL’s longest winning streak. Though their season is only half over, they are already close to clinching a finals berth. They have a bye this upcoming weekend, so we’ll have to wait until they take on the Red Devils in Christchurch on the 11th and 12th of July to see if they can make history.

Season Focus: Tim Noting

bea v sid

When goaltender Anthony Kimlin made it known that he will not be returning for a second consecutive season with the Sydney Ice Dogs, this put the club in a conundrum as to who they could recruit to play in the cage in the upcoming year.

Many Ice Dogs fans were nervous and sceptical as to who would be able to not only replace, but play with the same professionalism and skill as Kimlin in what would be their championship defending season. Enter 6 foot 4 Swedish import goaltender Tim Noting.

From the moment he stepped onto the ice, the super Swede has been noting but instrumental to the Ice Dogs success this season.

What is even more impressive is his already detailed hockey resume that he has been able to acquire despite being only 22 years of age. His career all started in 2007 with the Lindingo Vikings Junior 18′s team (Sweden) at only 16 years of age.

Having made his mark on the league with an incredible .926% save average in his 45 games, it was safe to say that Tim Noting was set to make an impact in years to come with his brand of hockey. He was able to quickly move up the ranks to the Viking’s Junior 20′s team where he would post a .825% save average in his sole season with the team.

With these eye opening stats as well as his quick glove, incredible athleticism and agility for a man of his size, opportunities for him to play for other teams came knocking.

He would go on to play for Huddinge IK in both their junior and senior teams in the Division 1 league in Sweden where he would accumulate a combined .855% save average in his two seasons with the club. It is here that his potential was well and truly recognized and with that came roster spots at Fana IHK in Norway and Rimbo IF back in Sweden before he would find a temporary home in Australia.

In terms of his impact on the AIHL this season however, in the 1, 096 minutes through 22 games he has played thus far this season for the Ice Dogs, Noting has been able to achieve at .891% save average which puts him at 7th overall in the league.

While this stat itself might not be overly impressive on first glance, it is the fact that he has been able to uphold such a solid percentage having played the second most minutes and games out of any goalie in the league that has fans and players alike noticing the efforts of the Super Swede.

Another interesting stat is the fact that he has faced the 4th most shots out of any goalie in the league (676) and has been able to turn away 602 of them. This can be narrowed down to his quick glove and reflexes that continuously deny opposition forwards of an almost certain goal.

In terms of the tempo of the league and what sets it apart from others he has played in, Noting explained that.

“The best league I played in was the Swedish Div1, however, the fastest league would definitely be the Swedish J20SuperElit.

“It is however very hard to compare the hockey as it’s a whole different sport almost. I can’t find anything to compare it on ice, but something that the AIHL has that we don’t have in our league is a cup, we can only gain promotion into the next league. It makes it even more juicier to win games.”

His athleticism has truly helped him fit in with the high scoring nature of the league as well as the offensive style of it. While his time over in Sweden and Norway has helped him fine tune all aspects of his game, he does claim that it is a whole different game down under.

“The big thing I realised mid season was that I actually have to think during the games, which I normally don’t do,” continued Noting.

“Back home everything is so fast that you don’t have time to think and you just go. Faster hockey makes the possibilities for a play smaller cause you have less time.

“It is easier for goalies to try to read the play. Here it’s very hard to read the play, since the tempo isn’t very fast.”

When asked about how the AIHL differs from the Swedish leagues.

His ability to shut down breakaways while also snatching the puck out of mid air has offences frustrated at the best of times and has given the Ice Dogs fans added faith that he can do everything necessary to book the Ice Dogs a trip to Melbourne come the end of this month.

The Double-Edged Sword of Increased NZIHL Media Coverage

With over 4100 views as of this writing, last weekend’s game between the Southern Stampedeand Canterbury Red Devils is officially the most-watched stream in the history of the New Zealand Ice Hockey League. The match was the second of the 2014 NZIHL season and gave us a great taste of the season to come.

Fans of the NZIHL and AIHL both can appreciate this milestone, as both fanbases have shared frustration at the lack of media attention often paid to our great sport. In countries where cricket and rugby are the sport de rigueur, attracting media attention to ice hockey has sometimes felt like an uphill battle.

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Photo: Chris M Photography.

And as in the case of last week’s games, the sad truth is that in spite of this milestone, it was the drama and tragedy of the game that attracted New Zealand’s mainstream media.

The injury of Stampede’s Matt Schneider at the hands of Canterbury’s Hayden Argyle is old news by now, but the media reverberations were widely felt. Publications which frequently didn’t bat a lash toward the NZIHL were suddenly experts on the subject, nevermind the fact that some of their articles contained factual inaccuracies.

For example, one piece mentioned Schneider being “held in place” for Argyle to attack. Sure, he was tangled up with another Devils player, but any veteran observer of the sport can tell you hockey players get tangled up in front of the net on a daily basis. There was no malice in the Devils’ positioning there.

This is not a naming and shaming piece so I won’t link to any of the articles in question. As someone who has followed the NZIHL as a fan far longer than I have written about it, I do wonder (in a cynical mental tone of voice, no less): will these publications continue following our League for the good clean hockey? Or will the interest wane if the next few NZIHL games pass without major incident?

And from there, the mind wanders to other questions: while a mostly-accurate account of an injury sustained on the ice isn’t the sort of publicity the fans want or need, does it help grow the sport’s popularity in the end? Is there truth to the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity?

The NZIHL has long struggled with getting the message across to the New Zealand public that our brand of hockey is more finesse than fisticuffs. After all, the Ice Blacks and NZIHL depend on a core of homegrown local players, and if future generations of parents are too afraid of goonery and concussions to enrol their children, that local core will suffer. The fewer NZ kids grow up playing hockey, the fewer future players that NZIHL teams and the national squad can draw from.

But on the opposite side of that coin, it’s possible that the slew of articles spawned by the Schneider/Argyle incident have alerted potential players and parents to the existence of New Zealand hockey in the first place.

Increased media coverage for the NZIHL is truly a double edged sword. Higher viewer numbers and the Stuff.co.nz streamed Game of the Week can only mean good things, but the New Zealand hockey community must now be aware that there are more eyes on us than ever before.

The Stampede’s fanbase had such a strong and vitriolic reaction to the Schneider injury that the team felt the need to issue a press release stating that, “… our fans are entitled to their own opinions and interpretation of the game, please note that their opinions are theirs alone and do not reflect those of the Stampede players and team management. The Stampede have put last weekend’s events behind them and hope that everyone can move forward with them as we continue a close and exciting 2014 season.”

Wise words in the eyes of this Stampede fan. The League, the players, and media who cover the NZIHL will do well to take those words to heart, and most of them already have. It’s important to celebrate the milestone achieved last weekend without allowing it to sour our opinions toward the sport as a whole.

I hope the mainstream New Zealand media is listening: the NZIHL is more than just an unfortunate concussion sustained in the heat of the moment. If the articles keep rolling in showcasing the finesse of our game, the storied histories of our imports, the dedication of our homegrown Kiwi players, and the devotion of our small but vocal fanbase, then I will happily consider my cynicism unjustified.

NZIHL Injuries Update – Week 7

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We all know hockey is a rough sport, and the 2014 season’s New Zealand Ice Hockey League injuries are doing a good job of driving that point home so far.

Every South Island team has now lost at least one player to injury. Of those, three players are unfortunately out for the remainder of the season.

Here’s a look at which teams are down players heading into Week 8 of the 2014 NZIHL season:

Southern Stampede

The Stampede have no doubt been bit hardest by the injury bug this year. The Stampede’s season opened with an after-whistle hit on brilliant forward Matt Schneider that left him unconscious. He missed the remainder of that game, which was the second of a double-header against the Canterbury Red Devils. Fortunately for the Stampede, they had a bye the next week and Schneider has told the media that he didn’t sustain concussion symptoms. He didn’t miss any further games.

Next, the Stampede lost star defenseman and AIHL Championship winner Adam Blanchette in their fourth game of the season. Blanchette sustained a suspected concussion and was pulled from the June 22 game against visitors Dunedin Thunder.

Later that week, the Stampede confirmed the worst: not only had Blanchette been concussed,he would be retiring immediately as a precaution. While we all miss seeing Blanchette on the ice, his decision to do what’s best for his health is an admirable one.

The third blow to the Stampede came when they next faced the Botany Swarm up in Auckland: young forward Callum Burns took a friendly fire slapshot to the face which left him with a cut beneath his eye and a broken nose. Burns missed the remainder of that game but returned for the next.

Unfortunately for Burns, when the Stampede took on the Thunder at home in Dunedin, he’d be struck yet again, taken off the ice with a broken wrist. Burns is expected to miss the rest of the season, which is no surprise.

This comes as a particular blow to the already hard-done-by Stampede, as Burns had really stepped up his game this season. He’d already scored 2G and 1A by the time he was injured and was showing visible improvement with each game–and at only 17 years old, against much larger and older competition.

Dunedin Thunder

English-born Matt Enright suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the fifth game of theThunder season during a match against the Red Devils. The forward was the Thunder’s third overall points producer last season. This year he was averaging a goal per game, and though the Thunder are an offensively-stacked team, his loss has still resulted in some necessary line shuffling.

In spite of his broken ankle, Enright has continued to travel with the team and remains very much an active part of the Thunder.

Canterbury Red Devils

While details are sparse and it would be no surprise to anyone if the Devils opted not to disclose how things are looking for now, the Canterbury Red Devils have lost star forward Vladimir Kutny for at least one game.

Kutny was not on the ice against the Botany Swarm for the second of last weekend’s games. Exactly when and how he sustained his shoulder injury wasn’t made clear, but the Devils and their fans are no doubt hoping he’s back in fine form for their upcoming games.

Kutny is a new addition to the Devils line-up this year, hailing from Slovakia and coming to Canterbury on the heels of a career that includes two trips to the World Junior Championships, three years of Canadian play in the QMJHL, and now 14 points in 6 games for the Red Devils.

The Devils presently sit at the top of the NZIHL table, though they seemed to be missing Kutny from the lineup as they struggled last weekend, losing two games to visitors Botany Swarm.

Botany Swarm and West Auckland Admirals

The NZIHL’s two North Island teams have either not lost any players to injury or have not disclosed any. As we head down the home stretch of the 2014 season, let’s hope their luck continues.

All of us here at OTF wish Callum Burns and Matt Enright best of luck for their return to NZIHL play in 2015. They’re important additions to their respective squads and we look forward to seeing them back on the ice. Adam Blanchette meanwhile will make an excellent addition to the Stampede’s coaching staff going forward.

Unless the Devils announce otherwise, we are assuming Vladimir Kutny will be back in the line-up for the Devils as they rematch the Swarm this upcoming weekend.

Too Little, Too late for the North Star Sirens

The North Star Sirens, still smarting from a home ice loss the day before, came back to Hunter Ice Skating Stadium hungry for revenge.  They seemed well poised for a bronze medal finish – they had not finished without a medal in the AWIHL finals before, plus they had the home ice advantage. Yet just the day before they had been defeated by the Brisbane Goannas on that home ice.

North Star Sirens

Photo: Pic by Wulos.

The Goannas had gone to challenge the Adrenaline for the second grand final spot, and were only narrowly defeated 6-5.  This much improved team was standing between them and a bronze medal finish.

The Sirens turned up the aggression for this match, fighting hard to get and keep possession.  They managed to force the Goannas into their end but shot after shot on the Goannas’ net went wide.  The Goannas defence were as determined as ever, pushing back against the forwards just as hard.  In net, Kristy Bruske stood firm to deny the Sirens when needed.

Despite the offensive push from the Sirens, the Goannas opened the scoring first as Michelle Clarke-Crumpton drew out and beat Dogramaci, the Sirens goaltender.  Undeterred, the Sirens continued to struggle with the Goannas for possession and the play moved from end to end for most of the period.  Eventually the Sirens perseverance paid off, as Anna Ruut evened the score at 8.05.

Lead by top pairing of Amelia Matheson and Sharna Godfrey the Sirens kept up their attack literally to the dying seconds of the period.  After a barrage of shots Matheson slipped one past Bruske with just under 2 seconds to go.  They ended the period with a 2-1 lead.

Both the goannas and the sirens stepped up the intensity in the second period and possession was equally shared between the two.  The first half of the period remained scoreless, despite offensive rushes from both sides.  As the pressure mounted both goalies made more and more dramatic saves, to the delight of the watching fans.  In one memorable incident Dogramaci sprinted into a diving poke check well outside the crease.  Not only did she succeed in knocking the puck off Farrier’s stick, the unexpected attack sent the star forward flying over the top of her, rendering her incapable of chasing her rebound.

It took an interference penalty to Melinda White to inspire the Goannas to up the competition.  After some pressure from Sydney they managed to take advantage of a Sirens turnover to score shorthanded. Try as they might the Sirens could not break though the Goannas defence and the period ended tied 2-2.

The tone for the third period was set just thirty seconds in as Kelly Costa finished an offensive run to give the Goannas the lead.  The Goannas’ endurance seemed to wear down the Sirens, and they began to take over puck possession.  The sirens still managed to break into the Goannas’ end several times but they could not get any shots past the relentless goannas defence.

More than once the net was knocked off by a desperate Goanna trying to cut the Sirens off.  Their determination paid off with an unassisted goal from Natasha Farrier, increasing their lead to 4-2.  The Sirens found some order and finished the period with admirably aggressive play but they could not find the back of the net.  Despite pulling Dogramaci for an extra forward, the rest of the period remained scoreless.  The game ended with a 4-2 victory to the Goannas, awarding them the bronze medal.

The Brisbane Goannas have received their first medal in AWIHL history, having finished last in all previous seasons.  This well-deserved finish comes after a season of steady improvement from a team whose members come from all over Australia, and are only able to meet on game days.

Despite their disappointment of their last place finish, the North Star Sirens were gracious in defeat, and as they watched the Goannas receive their medals, many with tears of joy, acknowledged how proud they were of the Goannas for achieving such a milestone.

Inside the Locker Room: Sydney Ice Dogs import Tim Noting

tim noting

Bianca Musico caught up with the Sydney Ice Dogs newest import Tim Noting.

With Anthony Kimlin not returning to the Ice Dogs this season, the team had two choices. Use other local talent or search for an import. And so the search began.

Fans of the Ice Dogs were disappointed Kimlin wouldn’t be returning to the Sydney team for the season, but they can rest assured that their new 6’4” goalie will be ‘Noting’ like the rest.

The team acquired the 23-year-old Swedish import as their starting goaltender for the 2014 AIHL season, with Dylan Burgess as his backup.

Noting arrived earlier this week and has already hit the ice at practice with the Ice Dogs this past Tuesday.

Here is everything you need to know about the new goalie.

(BM) What inspired you to play ice hockey?

(TN) I played a lot of sports when I was a kid! But hockey was my main sport because of the speed and contact ice hockey brings. Still is today!

(BM) How long have you been playing for?

(TN) I started earlier then I could remember. I lived close to the rink and have an old hockey player dad so it was natural when I was a baby.

(BM) Which team do you support in the NHL and why?

(TN) I like Chicago! Mainly for their jerseys and that they’re an original six team.

(BM) Do you have a favourite player?

(TN) I don’t have a special favorite player like that. Then I would have to say the goalie. I look at NHL goalies and learn.

(BM) What made you choose to become a goaltender?

(TN) I was a centre in a late age but jumped in as a goalie here and there. When we played at home after normal practice I was a goalie cause I loved Patrick Roy. After a while all that practice made me better then the normal goalie and I took his spot.

(BM) What’s the best part about being a goalie? 

(TN) The pressure! Everything you do gets evaluated so much more than the players. Either you are a hero or a villain. And to be the hero when it’s so much at stake. There is no better feeling.

(BM) You went to the Ice Dogs training last night, what was your first impression of the team?

(TN) It was very short and it’s hard to say but their definitely some talent there. And the guys were very nice to me and made me feel like home in the dressing room. So we are gonna get along just fine.

(BM) How do you like Sydney so far?

(TN) I loved it so far. So much more stuff here than back home, plus it’s really warm here. I normally step outta the rink well dressed and it’s almost that it would be easier to keep the skates on. Love the weather and the people here seem so nice too.

(BM) What’s been the hardest part about coming to Sydney?

(TN) It was leaving all my good friends and my family. I’m very close to my friends and my brother so that was tough. I hope that they can come visit me though.

(BM) What is one thing you are most excited to do or see in Australia?

(TN) Oh wow where do I start? Everything from seeing all the animals, surfing and of course to bring back the cup this year too for the Ice Dogs!

The Ice Dogs are excited to have Tim on board and know he will be an integral part of the team this year.

On The Fly welcome Tim into the Australian Ice Hockey League family and wish him all the best this season.