The finals picture in the AIHL is starting to become clearer as the business end approaches.
At this point in the season the current AIHL standings can be broken down into three categories: elite teams at the top, middle of the pack and the bottom two clubs.
At the top of the AIHL we have the Newcastle Northstars (first) and CBR Brave (second).
Two teams packed full of talent and the benchmarks of the competition, with seven players across both clubs making it into the top 10 on the League Leaders board.
There have only been three games lost between the two teams across the season, North Stars (one) and Brave (two), showing how dominant the top two pairings are.
Lead by Wehebe Darge, Casey Kubara and Andy Camenzind, the Brave have firepower to score and do so heavily. Goaltenders Alex Tetreault and Aleksi Toivonen keep things tight in net.
Newcastle is not short on scoring threats either. The Northstars have a more spread-out team-oriented game with multiple players getting on the points list.
Backed up by .90+ per cent save percentage from Charlie Smart and James Downie in goal, the Northstars are a hard team to score against.
Both teams will be the ones to beat in this season’s Goodall Cup Finals.
Middle of the pack
Sitting in the middle of the AIHL standings are the Sydney Bears (third) and Melbourne Mustangs (fourth).
Both the Bears and Mustangs have squads capable of matching it with anyone in the AIHL, but inconsistency across periods has them sitting in the last two finals spots.
Tomas Landa and Alexander Gauthier are the pick of the bunch for the Bears, both in the top 10 scoring leaders for the competition.
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Age isn’t slowing Landa down, with the 38-year-old still leading the way in the AIHL for the Bears with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists).
The Mustangs are either hot or they are not. A mixture of experience, talent and youth, they can’t find that consistent form to challenge the top two positions.
Ty Wishart and Scott Timmins are the star imports, but even with the returning Matt Armstrong and Mitch Humphries, it hasn’t quite clicked completely for the Melbourne team.
Both former AIHL Goodall Cup contenders the Sydney Ice Dogs (fifth) and Melbourne Ice (sixth) round out the league.
The two teams are in a rebuilding phase. The Ice Dogs are focusing on youth development through the DPP (Dogs Prospect Program).
Meanwhile, the Ice have chosen to field one import player this AIHL season as they take their own approach.
A lot of younger players are scattered through each squad as they look to the future coming off back-to-back COVID cancelled seasons.
Still containing talent within each team, the Ice Dogs and Ice just don’t have enough scoring threats and experience to test the top teams in the AIHL on a week-to-week basis.
Out of both clubs, only the Ice Dogs contain two players in the top 20 for points, with Cameron Todd and Strat Allen.
While on their day the Ice Dogs and Ice can pull a surprise result, both sets of supporters will endure some pain as the rebuild for the 2023 AIHL season and beyond continues.
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