Monday, April 25, 2016 - Submitted by Mitchell Mann
The CBR Brave opened its 2016 AIHL campaign with 5-2 win over a rejuvenated Sydney Ice Dogs at the Phillip Swimming & Ice Skating Centre on Saturday night. Despite a slow start, the Brave improved throughout the match with Head Coach Josh Unice pleased by the improvement throughout the match, stating they need to ’simplify their game and the team will be rewarded’. "I thought we played a lot better in the second and third period," Unice said. "I think you look at the stats from the game and both sides came out with a lot of energy, but our energy wasn't very useful. We came out and the crowd was amazing but when we settled in, played our game and simplified things in the second and third period, we were dominant."
The Ice Dogs, who had played strongly in the pre-season Wilson Cup, carried the form into the match, starting strongly and taking the match to the highly fancied Brave outfit. The packed crowd in Canberra was treated to a huge defensive display with both sides putting bodies on the line to make their respective goalie’s lives easier. It was the Ice Dogs that opened the scoring with the first and only goal of the first stanza through import forward Strat Allen, ably assisted by Australian Under 18’s Captain Ellesse Carini and the returning Todd Stephenson, tallying his 100th assist in the AIHL. The goal seemed to awaken the Brave with last season’s point scoring champion Geordie Wudrick opening his tally for the Brave early in the second, jumping on a defensive miscue from the Ice Dogs to bring the game back to level pegging, before Nicola Brandi scored his first goal in Brave colours to give the home side the lead. The Brave continued to assert themselves offensively, peppering new Ice Dogs goalie Charlie Smart with 18 shots for the period. Smart held strong, sending the sides to the final intermission at 2-1. The early exchanges of the third period were all the Brave with new Australia recruit Casey Kubara opening his AIHL scoring account before import Neal Prokop claimed a double to give the Brave a 5-1 advantage. With the Brave gaining the ascendency, the sides began to get scrappy with 11 penalties peppering the final period. A gallant Ice Dogs refused to give up though, fighting hard and looking sharp, with David Dunwoodie scoring a late consolation goal as they held the Brave out for the final 10 minutes. Unice was pleased with his charges following the match, pointing out Wudrick’s first goal as a Brave as the turning point, claiming it fired the team up and got them back in the game.
"There's been a lot of touting and media publicity around Geordie coming here this year and I think him getting the first goal got the monkey off his back," Unice said. "It not only got the fan base into it, but got our team into it too. The shot he scored from set the tone and showed if you get the puck on net, good things will happen." Unice also praised former Adrenaline defenceman Zach Boyle, highlighting his strong communication and solid defence and Casey Kubara for his first AIHL goal. Next week, the Brave travel to Melbourne to take on the Mustangs in a double header, while the Ice Dogs host their home opener against the Melbourne Ice on Saturday before the first Battle of Sydney against the Bears on Sunday.