Fresh off their first weekend of twin victories the Kodiak Melbourne Mustangs have started August by collecting another crucial six points.
A trip to Sydney on Saturday saw the Mustangs triumph 3-1 over the Ice Dogs before returning to Melbourne where they finished impressively to overcome Sydney Bears 6-2 on Sunday.
After coming from behind in both wins the week before, the Mustangs led from start to finish at Macquarie Ice Rink thanks to two goals from Christian Isackson and a Matt Anderson score.
Isackson took little time to give the Mustangs the lead on Saturday converting the chance provided to him by Vadim Virjassov and Brendan McDowell after just 1:54 of play.
The team’s second goal came just as quick the next period with only 2:08 off the clock when another Virjassov pass was put in by Isackson to double the visitors’ advantage.
At the 7:19 mark of the period Anderson made it 3-0 after finding the back of the net when the Mustangs were a man down with Jamie Bourke serving two minutes for interference.
The Ice Dogs pulled a goal back two minutes later, but it would be their only tally for the game and the final goal of the contest as the two teams played out a goalless third period.
The match was far from an attacking affair with the Mustangs, who went into the game average 38 shots per outing, recording 20 shots and the Ice Dogs only 14 according to official scores.
While coach Max Parent was surprised by the final shot totals, he said it was one of, if not the best defensive outing by the Mustangs all season.
If Sunday’s defensive performance didn’t top Saturday’s effort, then it was the Mustangs’ next best of the year as they nullified the Bears in front of home support at the O’Brien Icehouse.
After conceding twice in the first period the Mustangs were sensational for the next two periods and a completely different side to the one that was buried 8-4 by the Bears just two weeks prior.
The Mustangs showed their fight and more late game flare after going down 2-1 when Jake Ratcliffe struck twice - once when shorthanded - to cancel out Virjassov’s own shorty.
As they had done all weekend it was Virjassov and Isackson who combined to get the Mustangs back level pegging, doing so in the second term at almost the same time as they had in the first.
Again, it was the American setting up the Estonian-born forward to score the period’s only goal.
Eight minutes later the Mustangs would lose captain Michael McMahon for the final 1:39 of the period and the match, as he was handed five minutes for slashing and a game misconduct.
It mattered little though as the Mustangs’defencemen stepped in their own zone as well as in attack with Jordan Owens putting the team ahead before setting up Tristian Darling for the team’s fifth.
Either side of Darling’s goal were scores by Bourke and Sean Jones who struck their blows after 5:04 and then with 9:22 left in the match.
Along with Owens, Parker Thomas and Anderson both had two assists in the final period.
With five games to play the Mustangs remain in fifth, just four points behind the third placed Bears.
Parent said the Mustangs’ depth had played a major role in the team’s run over recent weeks while he also praised the application of his players on the defensive end of the ice.
“It’s good to see that we’ve got guys down the roster that can play a really strong role for our team when we need them too,” he said.
“Early in the year most of our points were scored by the top-line but I’m really pleased we’re now seeing that when things might not be going our way, other guys are stepping up.
“On D, guys are starting to make the small sacrifices and block shots, take hits and just be more disciplined while moving away from those selfish penalties we were committing.
“Additionally, the PK (penalty kill) has been very good the past couple of weekends after struggled for most of the year.
“We have been more structured, are getting in better positions and doing the little things that make a big difference in those tight games, so we need to keep that going down the final stretch.”
After the weekend’s games, Isackson and Virjassov lead the Mustangs each with 34 points, the latter having 17 goals and 17 assists in 20 matches and Isackson 15 goals and 19 assists from 23 games.
The Mustangs head back to Sydney this Saturday for their last matchup against the Bears before crossing to Canberra on Sunday to face the league leading Brave for the fourth and final time.
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