Team focus as Perth Thunder rise up standings

If you live in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, a shoebox or under a rock, you may not be aware that the Perth Thunder are sitting on top of the Australian Ice Hockey League standings, with a 6-0-0-0 record.

But how does a team go from a non-playoff, seventh seed team in 2014, to an early cup favourite? Well, let’s investigate.

At the helm of Perth’s success was interim import goalie Peter Di Salvo from the Southern Pro Hockey League. Di Salvo sits first in the league with a 1.33 Goals Against Average, and a .944 Save Percentage, letting in only eight goals in six games.

He has now left the league, as his time as an interim import expired after only four short weeks, one of those weeks being a bye.

Perth Thunder coach Dave Kenway said they didn’t know what to expect from Di Salvo before he came into the league.

“Peter came in temporary until our full import goaltender arrives,” he said.

“We didn’t know what to expect with Peter, we knew he had good stats but, from the first time he turned up he fit in with the team and he was outstanding, he just really supported the guys.

“[Peter is] one of the most puck-handling goaltenders I’ve ever had in a team, which sort of took me by surprise but he did it well.

“He certainly told the boys what he wanted out of his team, and his defence in front of him, and he fit in really well and it turned out good for us.

Kenway said he will play an almost unchanged lineup from the weekend series against theNewcastle North Stars and Sydney Ice Dogs.

“I don’t think there is too much we can change from the lineup,” he said.

“We had a couple of guys out due to work commitments, so we brought in a couple of young players.

“That being said, all our young squad members are playing well when they’re asked to perform and there is not going to be many changing for the weekend.”

And, of course, he is correct.

Leaving the Thunder lineup unchanged for this weekend will be a very wise move after the success they have had together, not just last weekend, but the whole season.

Their PDO currently sits at 104.67% (Kevin Flynn, PDO is a hockey term used to measure a team’s overall production by adding together their overall save percentage and their shooting percentage. It is believed by some to be one of the most effective analytics in hockey when looking at a team. A PDO of 104.67% is not completely unsustainable, and there are three other teams in the league with PDO’s over 100.

However, it is their overall shot differential that is the most shocking part. Di Salvo and the Thunder defence have only allowed eight goals, and have scored 24, both statistics that are much higher than any other team.

But despite having so many goals, they only have one player registering in the top ten league leading scorers, being Luke Judson.

Judson has 12 points made up of five goals and seven assists, which does not compare to Newcastle North Stars forwards Geordie Wudrick (21 points) and Luke Moffatt (17 points).

Kenway said for his team it is not about having the league leading scorer, but a team who is driven to win games.

“The boys, they’re playing for the team this year,” he said.

“Obviously being the top point scorer in the league is a great honour, but at the end of the day there is no point being a top point scorer if your team finishes fifth and doesn’t make playoffs, so the boys always have that in mind.

“They just want to win, and it doesn’t really matter to them who is scoring the goals.”