MELBOURNE, Victoria – The Adelaide Adrenaline arrived in Melbourne for Game 1 of their double-header against a feisty Mustangs outfit, not in finals contention but with nothing to lose.
Still battling for that second spot in the Easton conference, Adelaide knew all six points were needed. As they found out, the Mustangs were going to make them earn every single one of them.
The game got off to a frantic pace, end-to-end hockey was on display for the Melbourne crowd with both teams skating well. Vadim Virjassov had an early opportunity after skating through the neutral zone, although he was reluctant to pull the trigger.
The fast paced hockey continued with only two penalties awarded in the period, Adelaide’s Sean Greer (interference) and Greg Oddy (slashing) being the offenders. The lack of penalties allowed for a free flowing game and one which kept commentators looking for a sip of water.
Big hits were also on offer as both teams didn’t shy away from the tough stuff; it was a tight tussle, but one which the Mustangs dominated with shots on goal.
A superb piece of defending with 20 seconds left in the period by Andrew Stapleton denied Mustangs captain Shane Hardy a chance to open the scoring heading into the first intermission the game was tied at zero.
Adrenaline goalie Aaron Barton was looking solid between the posts, while Mustangs goalie Oliver Wren didn’t have a lot to do.
The second period got underway and it was the Mustangs who would dominate the shot count, but not get anything past the superb Aaron Barton in goal. The Mustangs pushed forward as Anderson broke clear and fired at the net, Barton was up to task the with a great shoulder save.
Two minutes later, Barton was once again called into action and two great chances for the Mustangs were cut short by the one man band.
The Mustangs would continue to pepper the Adrenaline goal, with 11 shots fired at Barton – It was a case of when rather than if the Mustangs would score.
But with Barton saving everything, the game headed into the third locked up, but it looked like the Mustangs had the Adrenaline’s measure and would get that important first goal of the game.
Only two penalties were awarded in the final period and it was once again end to end hockey. Adelaide’s Wehebe Darge (holding) allowed the Mustangs to work the puck forward with the man-advantage. But a successful penalty kill from the Adrenaline keeping a clean scoresheet.
The third period was a much more even 15 minutes of play – a shot count of 8-6 meant both teams were getting their chances. Adelaide’s Greg Oddy would flick a superb cross ice pass to danger man Brett Liscomb, calling Oliver Wren into action and a nice save from Wren continued to keep Adelaide searching.
The deadlock was finally broken when Oddy was able to find space after a nice pass from Liscomb, finishing off with a nice five-hole goal and shattering the home fans.
Mustangs defender Troy Robertson would take an untimely penalty with minutes remaining, not helping the home side that were looking for an equalizer. It gave the Adrenaline a chance to seal the game, something that was nearly a reality moments later, when a close-range opportunity was kept out with some quick reaction work by Oliver Wren.
As the clock wound down, the Adrenaline worked hard along the boards late. They were a team possessed, trying everything to take away any Mustangs chances late. Melbourne would eventually pull their goalie to give them a man-advantage, but it wasn’t enough to save the game and the Adrenaline would run away with a 1-0 victory.
It was a tight contest where the Mustangs were in control for most of the game. No doubt a cruel result for the home side, but Adelaide took their limited opportunities and the all important three points.
A shutout win for Adelaide’s Aaron Barton made it all the more sweeter for the Canadian.
Photo Credits: Tania Chalmers
Follow us on Twitter (@prohockeynews)