A fierce and fiery clash is almost always ensured when the Newcastle Northstars meet the Sydney Ice Dogs and Sunday's game between the two teams met the brief.
Playing at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium for their first meeting of the season, the Northstars and Ice Dogs went toe-to-toe in a penalty-filled game but the home team held on to win 5-4.
"I'm proud of the way we came out," Northstars coach John Kennedy Jr said. "Full credit to the Sydney Ice Dogs and the way they responded after the first period when they were down two goals.
"They weren't going to bow down and let us walk all over them. They came back and fought hard but so did we."
The Northstars led 3-0 mid-way through the second period thanks to goals from Pat Nadin, new import Luke Simpson and captain Robert Malloy.
Quick back-to-back goals from the Ice Dogs in the final three minutes of period two turned the tide of the game.
Tensions that had been mounting during the game boiled over to the point that the referees called the period with 25 seconds left on the clock to sort out penalties and allow the teams to cool down and reset ahead of the third and final period.
A goal from Sydney in the third period tied up the game but the Northstars did not leave it unanswered.
In a man of the match performance, Nadin came through with the tie-breaker and a follow up goal from Newcastle's new import Trey Phillips made it a 5-3 game.
One more from the Ice Dogs in the dwindling seconds inched them closer to a tied game, but it was not enough to overcome the Northstars.
Kennedy said he was happy with Nadin's two goal and two assist performance on Sunday, and with how well the new imports, who arrived in Newcastle from Canada on Thursday, June 6, fit in with the team.
"Trey and Luke both did great," Kennedy said. "They just got off a plane on Thursday, they're still getting their legs under them, but skill-wise to be able to execute and put two goals on the board is excellent.
"Trey's goal was a very timely goal. He just turned it up. He took it coast to coast and put it in.
"I expect great things from them. They fit well with our team system. They play a quick game, they're fast to respond. They'll do well here."
Newcastle are now tied at the top of the table with Canberra Brave. Both teams have won 11 from 12 games.
The Northstars will enjoy a break this weekend before facing CBR Brave and Perth Thunder in a double header at HISS on June 22-23.
"I think the whole league will be watching that game," Kennedy said of Newcastle's upcoming game with Brave.
"We're excited for it. They're the defending champions. If we want to win it, we know we have to bring it against Canberra."
Malloy, Shane Southwood and imports Sammy Banga and Francis Drolet will play in the AIHL All Star Game in Sydney on June 15.