20/04/2024

Star of the show Joakim Erdugan continued his offensive ways to help the Central Coast Rhinos to back-to-back AIHL wins. (Photo: Frank Kutsche; Design: Will Cuckson)

There is never a dull moment in the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) as each week we see more and more amazing moments with the season well and truly in full swing.

Week nine would see a winless team finally break through, a milestone reached for an AIHL legend, a contender taking a big scalp, and goals galore up north.

The Inner Sanctum is back again for another week of five things.

All smiles as the Central Coast Rhinos finally pick up their first win of the AIHL season. (Photo: Frank Kutsche)

Worth the wait

It took 5,461 days for the Central Coast Rhinos to break their winless run, sweeping the Adelaide Adrenaline with back-to-back wins to finally get their first wins of the 2023 AIHL season.

For context on the current Rhinos campaign in the AIHL – they weren’t active in the competition from 2009-2022, with their last victory coming on June 28, 2008, against the now-defunct Gold Coast Blue Tongues.

Off the back of a nine-point weekend performance from Swedish import Joakim Erdugan (seven goals, two assists) the Rhinos were able to hold out the Adrenaline – who took a four-goal lead in the first period of Sunday’s clash to head back to the NSW coast with five points in the bag.

Wehebe Darge celebrates with the Newcastle bench after picking up point 400. (Photo: Jess Fuller)

400 of the best

Wehebe Darge kept us waiting long enough, but we finally got to see the Newcastle Northstars forward reach the 400-career point mark in the AIHL.

Darge – who hadn’t played since May 7 due to injury, returned with a bang for the Northstars putting up four points (three goals, one assist) to reach the milestone in what has been a star-studded career.

Arriving at the Northstars from current reigning Goodall Cup champions CBR Brave in the off-season, Darge will play an important role for the Northstars this season and his production was a welcome return.

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Beware of the rumble from above

I have spoken about the Perth Thunder a lot on the Net, Sticks, and Chill podcast and how much I rate their roster, and in week nine they came out with all guns blazing by beating the current league-leading Sydney Bears.

After falling behind in the first period the Thunder scored two late goals – including a powerplay goal from Ville Tenosalmi to lead 2-1. New star recruit Andrew Bellant continued his impressive form sealing the win in the third period to grab his twelfth goal of the season.

2019 Goodall Cup finalists and returning to the league this season, Perth have a strong roster and look like a real contender for the cup again.

Melbourne Ice put up 11 goals for the second time this season. (Photo: Phil Taylor Photographic)

The game that had it all

It was the first game on the Saturday schedule which took 3.5 hours to complete and included a whopping 20 goals scored – the highest in a single game so far this season.

Melbourne Ice and Brisbane Lightning played out an offensive lover’s dream, with six powerplay goals, five shorthanded goals, and an empty netter to Ice import Chris Schutz to secure an 11-9 win.

Not only was the game stacked with offence, but there were also 71 penalty minutes, which is quite staggering and highlighted the spice between the two teams in what was a game for the ages at Iceworld Boondall.

Casey Kubara has been on fire for the CBR Brave over the past three weeks, getting back to that MVP form. (Photo: David Tate)

The MVP is heating up

It had been somewhat of a quiet start for the current AIHL MVP; however, Casey Kubara is starting to get back to the form we have come to expect from the Australian international.

Kubara missed the first three games of the season due to international duties and has taken time to settle into the season, but in the last three games we have seen Kubara go on a heater putting up nine points (four goals, five assists) as the Brave jumped into top spot in the Rurak Conference.

For the Brave to go back-to-back this season Kubara will need to be at his best, and it looks like we are starting to see a return to form for the current Mighty Roo.

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