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The Kodiak Melbourne Mustangs will have another chance to prove they are legitimate Goodall Cup contenders when they host Newcastle on Saturday.
The Mustangs toppled the previously undefeated Northstars 3-2 on their own ice last Sunday, bouncing back from a 4-5 loss to the Sydney Bears in the first leg of their NSW road trip.
On the back of Sunday’s performance, Mustangs coach Max Parent said there was no reason why his team couldn’t inflict a second loss on the Northstars.
“I wouldn’t say it was the best we’ve played, we’ve played some good games but nothing great yet, I think our best hockey is definitely still to come,” he said.
“Sunday was good, we had a lot of speed, a lot of chances, I think we moved much better than the day before and the quality of the ice was better too which helped us.
“I think for us it’s more a question of focusing on ourselves and making sure we’re building the right habits so when we get to the tough games, we have the edge.
“They’re a very good team with a good goalie, some good imports and good local players but on our rink, which is probably better suited to the team we have built, we can definitely beat them again.”
Two second-period goals from Vadim Virjassov were the catalyst for Sunday’s win.
After a goalless first period Virjassov struck the first blow just 15 seconds into the second before doubling the Mustangs’ advantage six minutes later with a powerplay score.
Jamie Bourke’s game winner after seven minutes of the third, also came on a four-on-five situation, after the Northstars had pulled a goal back through Ondrej Smach early in the period.
Down two goals for the second time in the match Sammy Banga replied for the Northstars, but it would be the last score of the game as the Mustangs held firm for the final 12 minutes.
A day earlier the Mustangs went down to the Sydney Bears, recording consecutive defeats for the first time this season, after a penalty shootout loss to the Ice Dogs the previous Saturday.
Like that match, the Mustangs again outshot their opponents, dominating the final count 37 to 22 against the Bears.
While offensively, the Mustangs continue to put up decent numbers, the five goals they conceded were the most in a game this season.
It was however a strong debut for the Mustangs’ latest and biggest ever signing with Jordan Owens scoring twice in his first outing.
After arriving in the country on Friday morning, Owens made the trip east and made his presence felt early with his first goal coming on the powerplay, levelling the game at 2-2.
After scoring with five minutes to go in the first period, four minutes into the second Owens had another and the Mustangs a 3-2 lead.
The Bears then wrestled back control in the third period with Thomas Stevens completing his hat-trick after five minutes had expired before Jan Koubek scored on the powerplay.
Christian Isackson tied the game for a third time with six minutes to go but with overtime looming Koubek had other ideas as the Czech import found a winner with just 30 seconds left.
“I would say we were the better team, however we kind of lacked awareness in our defensive zone and to their credit they took pretty much every chance they had,” Parent said.
“They are the kind of team that plays a very solid defensive game, they kill the chances and sacrifice (their bodies) to block shots.
“They do the little things well that make the difference between winning and losing.”
The other Mustangs goal against the Bears was from the stick of Michael McMahon who got the opener, while Virjassov (2), Isackson, Parker Thomas and Matt Anderson all had assists in the loss.
This Saturday’s game against Newcastle Northstars takes place at the O’Brien Icehouse from 5pm.
Melbourne Mustangs Ice Hockey Club
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