North Stars prepare for Goodall Cup tilt

Sam Patrick Roar Rookie

By Sam Patrick, Sam Patrick is a Roar Rookie

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    Only days out from the biggest weekend of the Australian Ice Hockey League season, you could excuse teams like the Newcastle North Stars from preparing a little differently for their semi-final against the Ice Dogs on Saturday.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the build-up to the finals weekend. The nerves are at an all time high, the media are everywhere and the fans are analysing each game from top to bottom in an attempt to gain some confidence and belief that their team can accomplish the ultimate goal.

    But despite all the nerves and the significance of the weekend, there are still two regular hockey games to be played and for goaltender Matt Ezzy and his Newcastle North Stars, sticking to routine and remaining focused on the job at hand is vital.

    “This weekend is a big weekend, the biggest in fact…What you really need to remember that while this weekend is huge, it still comes down to just two games of hockey. It’s the team that can get past the daunting part of that and harness those big game nerves to produce the best hockey that will have the most success,” he said.

    Ezzy said that focusing on the basics of ice hockey has been a key element in the North Stars’ training regime throughout the whole season and the finals were the time where these would become important.

    “Nothing much will change I think, we will work on the small things. We have had all year to get the basics of our systems down pat, now it’s a matter of continuing to fine tune them for the weekend’s games.”

    Awaiting them are the fierce Sydney Ice Dogs, who will be looking to end the North Star’s tilt at the Goodall Cup.

    Despite most teams generally looking to exploit the opposition’s weak areas, Ezzy believes that it is important for his team to play their own brand of hockey and not worry too much about the Ice Dogs’ style of play.

    “The Dogs are a good team with a lot of depth; they have no real one area we can look to exploit. Where we have success against them is playing our brand of hockey. Quick puck movement, high speed transitions from defence to offence and solid defensive play is what we are bringing to the dance. We will look to make teams match us, not the other way round.”

    He said that the team is hungrier than ever and that they knew what it took to achieve the milestone of an AIHL Goodall Cup.

    “We are a club that has won four Goodall Cups; we have guys who have been here for 3-4 of them so we know what it takes to win a finals weekend. The fact we haven’t won one in three years also adds to the hunger that’s needed to help get us over the line this weekend.”

    The weekend will see the end of the Australian Ice Hockey League’s most successful season to date, and with the Perth Thunder set to join the league next season it is only going to get bigger and better.

    AIHL chairman and commissioner Tyler Lovering was interviewed on Melbourne radio station SEN 1116 during the week and the Melbourne Ice were at the centre of an article in the Melbourne broadsheet newspaper The Age.

    And as Ezzy explains, it is a very exciting time to be a part of the league.

    “I am very excited about the direction the league is moving in; I have been lucky enough to be a part of it since 2004 and during the years I have seen the league noticeably improve every year on every level. It’s great to be a part of something as it grows from its infancy to the full grown show its becoming.”

    He also took the opportunity to thank the fans for the season and promised them the team would give it their best shot this weekend.

    “A heartfelt thank you to all of our fans who have supported us throughout the 28 games so far. We know you are behind us even if you can’t make it down there for the weekend. To the ones that are lucky enough to make the trip with us, we will be doing our best to do you proud as one of the best clubs in the AIHL.”

    The second semi-final between the Newcastle North Stars and Sydney Ice Dogs is scheduled to begin at 4pm this Saturday at the Melbourne Medibank Icehouse.