It was a split weekend for the Melbourne Mustangs picking up a win in the final derby of the season, and then falling short against a Sydney Bears team that took all six points in their trip down south.
Friday night the Mustangs would be too strong for the Ice running out 11-4 winners, on Saturday against the Bears it was a tough 4-2 loss as the Mustangs were unable to generate quality chances.
v Ice As has been the case this season it was the Ice who would get the early jump on the Mustangs to take the first lead of the match, as Artem Klein picked up his sixth of the season in under two minutes.
From there the Mustangs started to turn the screws, and with the help of two powerplay goals from Vadim Virjassov and Sean Jones, got their first lead of the game and one they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
The second period would see the Ice get back into the contest with goals from Chris Schutz and Roman Kraemer, it was however, the Thomas Flack show, picking up a hattrick which included powerplay and shorthanded markers.
Four goals in the final period would see Scott Timmins grab a hattrick and Ryan Ruddle picking up a pair as the Mustangs outshot their cross-corridor rivals to run out convincing winners.
v Bears A battle of the top two teams in the Hellyer Conference all eyes were on O’Brien Icehouse Arena, and it didn’t disappoint, both teams trading chances in the first period yet the deadlock wasn’t able to be broken for either team with scores 0-0 after the first 20 minutes.
The second period would see the Bears ramp things up, veteran Tomas Landa putting the away side up 2-0 with a pair of goals within the first six minutes of the period. Scott Timmins would return serve with one of his own at 6:29 for goal 31 of the season and give the Mustangs some life heading into the final intermission.
In a new look top line Dean Klomp would score to tie things up 16:13 with helpers from line mates Brendan McDowell and Timmins, however, with the Bears limiting the Mustangs chances a dagger would be struck in the final minutes.
Josh Lammon would get the go-ahead goal off a Landa assist to put the Bears up 3-2, a late goalie pull wasn’t enough for the Mustangs as the Bears scored an empty net goal with 14 seconds remaining to seal the game and all three points.
Speaking after the Bears game assistant/interim head coach Jon Moses talked about not being able to generate quality chances on net.
“We couldn’t break their defence down as much as we wanted to, so we didn’t create as many scoring chances, and with [Anthony] Kimlin in net you got to need 40 shots to kind of get four or five goals on him.”
The Bears were able to get traffic in front of the Liam Hughes, create havoc and scoring chances, something the Mustangs struggled to do.
“They get the puck down low and just throw it from side to side and hope something squirts out, that’s how they got the second goal, just kind of hit a skate and went in the net, so they do that a lot.
“And if you let them loose, they will throw one up high, they are always moving. We can do the same too, without Chris Lawrence in the lineup that sort of removes a bit of that element out, where we have got that intense forward pressure all the time.”
The Mustangs have tested out some new lines in recent weeks, including the third line, something Moses says gives them great depth.
“Last couple of weeks we have been playing Mitchy [Mitch Humphries], Sean Jones and Lee Turner together, and we really feel like that’s good depth on that third line.
“And we probably haven’t had that all season, Mitchy comes in the line-up, and all of a sudden that’s a pretty strong unit.”
A return to finals is already secured for the Mustangs, however, they have their sights set on first place.
“Just keep winning the games, try to get first spot, that’s what we want.
“We have got to rely a little bit on Perth and Newcastle pipping the Bears, if those guys do that then we can get first spot, and we go straight into the semis.
“Even if that doesn’t happen though I feel like we kind of have seen some advancements the last few weeks, particularly with defensive and just playing a little bit more percentage hockey in our second and third units.
“We don’t mind if we don’t get straight in, then we can keep working on those basics, and really get them tuned up for finals.”