AIHL: Newcastle Northstars clinch home finals berth

The Newcastle Northstars have punched their ticket to the 2019 AIHL Finals following a tense 5-4 shootout win to the Sydney Ice Dogs on Sunday.

Based on the Northstars win and other results around the league, Newcastle became the second team to clinch one of the four finals spot behind CBR Brave.

"The boys proved to be resilient and kept pushing even though we were up and down most of the game," Northstars coach John Kennedy Jr said about's Sunday game.

"They never gave up and we were able to find a way to win. These last games of the season, it's already play-off hockey.

"It's good to see the boys have that fight, that resilience needed to win games at this point in the season."

It was the Ice Dogs, coming off the back of a 12-5 loss to Brave the night before, who opened the scoring in Sunday's game but it did not last long after Richie Tesarik's shot found the back of the net.

One more from Ice Dogs gave the home side a 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.

The Northstars came out strong in period two with Luke Simpson and Sammy Banga netting goals to give Newcastle a lead for the first time in the game.

However, two more Sydney goals rounded out the second period and once again saw the Ice Dogs in the lead, 4-3.

Northstars captain Bert Malloy celebrates his shootout goal, which won Newcastle the game and secured the team its 2019 AIHL Finals berth. Picture: Peter Podlaha

Northstars captain Bert Malloy celebrates his shootout goal, which won Newcastle the game and secured the team its 2019 AIHL Finals berth. Picture: Peter Podlaha

Northstars captain Bert Malloy was the only goal scorer in the third period, which was enough to tie up the game and send it into five minutes of extra time.

Newcastle goaltender Charlie Smart fended off a consistent Sydney attack in the golden point time.

"Charlie played a phenomenal game. He kept us in it," Kennedy said. "He made some really big saves when it mattered most especially in the overtime."

A goalless overtime sent the game to a shootout. After four Sydney and three Newcastle attempts, it was Malloy who decided the game when his shot found the back of the net.

"Now that's out of the way, we're refocusing on habits - good habits," Kennedy said.

"I think we could have come out a lot better in the first period. We did a lot better in the second and third but that could be our season there.

"One bad period in the finals and that's that. As soon as we get that sense of urgency and realising the way we need to play all three periods, that's going to be the key thing for us over the next few weeks."

The Northstars next face Brave in Canberra on Saturday.

The AIHL Finals will be stage at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium on August 31-September 1.

Comments