27/02/2024

A view from the Melbourne Mustangs bench during their AIHL game against the Brisbane Lightning. (Photo: Phil Taylor Photographic/Melbourne Mustangs Facebook; Design: Will Cuckson)

We had 51 goals scored across week five of the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) season in what was another terrific weekend of jammed packed action across two days.

A former coach turned player made an instant impact, young Sydney Bears star continues to produce, and powerplays seemed to be the flavour of the week.

The Inner Sanctum looks at five things that caught our eye.

Four goal hero Chris Lawrence acknowledging the Melbourne Mustangs home crowd. (Photo: Phil Taylor Photographic/Melbourne Mustangs Facebook)

Mustangs get debut delight

You couldn’t have pictured a more perfect start for Chris Lawrence in Melbourne Mustangs colours, six points on debut, which included four goals to help guide the Mustangs to their sixth win of the season.

Lawrence, who was the Mustangs coach during the 2022 AIHL season, made his long-awaited appearance after overcoming a niggling injury and returning from time in the Elite Ice Hockey League with the Fife Flyers.

It’s just another addition to the Mustangs growing depth across the forward pairings, with Lawrence impacting both the five-on-five play and powerplay units.

Sydney Bears forward Thomas Steven is all smiles against the Newcastle Northstars. (Photo: Andrew Bourne/Sydney Bears Facebook)

Bears Tommy gun is firing

Thomas Steven has had a fantastic start to the AIHL season for the Sydney Bears which continued in their hard-fought 5-2 victory over the Central Coast Rhinos on Sunday.

Steven has scored in every game for the Bears this season, with a team leading 15 points (nine goals, six assists), to sit seventh overall on the AIHL scoring leaders standings.

With scores locked at 2-2 it was Steven who came up big for the Bears yet again, scoring on the powerplay to give the Bears a go-ahead goal they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the game.

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Look but don’t touch

Video filtered through following the Saturday schedule with scenes out of IceArenA in Adelaide of Sydney Ice Dogs player Cameron Todd having his helmet pulled through the protective netting by a spectator.

Players are there to entertain and showcase their talents every week, fans can cheer, boo, or even have a good-hearted chirp with the players through the 60 minutes each week. Getting involved in a scuffle between two opposing teams near the boards is simply not on, and anyone found doing so should be banned from attending any rinks throughout the country.

Todd wasn’t seriously hurt by the incident; however, a tough stance needs to be made. On Sunday, the Adrenaline made a statement via Facebook condemning the incident.

CBR Brave goaltender Aleksi Toivonen looks to the big screen at O’Brien Icehouse Arena. (Photo: Phil Taylor Photographic/CBR Brave Facebook)

Brave goalie tandem looking solid

Aleksi Toivonen sits top of the AIHL goaltender leader board after week five and helped guide the CBR Brave to an impressive win against the Rhinos stopping 30 of 29 shots as the Brave ran out 9-1 winners.

Toivonen has the best save percentage in the AIHL at .929, and a goals against average of 2.04 while sharing duties with goaltending partner Alex Tetreault.

It’s been business as usual for the Brave this season as they continue to motor along picking up wins while not at full strength, however, between the pipes they have once again been rock solid and Toivonen is a big reason why the Brave have only given up 21 goals this season.

Brisbane Lightning forward Jordan McTaggart collects the puck against the Melbourne Mustangs. (Photo: Phil Taylor Photographic/Melbourne Mustangs Facebook)

Powerplays take centre stage

While watching the games across the weekend one thing stuck out in almost every contest and that was an usual amount of powerplay goals.

We had 16 powerplay goals scored across the six games played, including six from the final game between the Bears and Rhinos on Sunday. Earlier in the day we would see four powerplay goals in the game between the Melbourne Ice and Brisbane Lightning, which also included a shorthanded goal to Jordan McTaggart.

Taking advantage of a 5-4 powerplay opportunity is important and teams look like they are doing just that.

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