Joey MacDougall in action. Picture: AIHL/Frank Kutsche

The Adelaide Adrenaline’s back-to-back AIHL road wins over the Central Coast Rhinos were close to five years in the making.

1742 days to be exact. 

It’s certainly a long time between drinks, for players and fans alike. 

Although captain Joey MacDougall reveals there weren’t too many had to celebrate. 

“We have a pretty zero-tolerance approach after a Saturday game where we know we have to play on the Sunday,” MacDougall told The Inner Sanctum

“It was definitely one of those things where the belt was loosened a bit. We had a beer in celebration… but it wasn’t a big celebration by any means because we knew we had to get back at it the next day.”

The restraint was worthwhile, with the Adrenaline backing up Saturday the 29th of April’s 9-3 triumph with a 7-2 victory on the Sunday. 

“Once you get that win you wanna get that second one, but everybody’s bought into what we’re doing this year, and not celebrating too hard was one of those things, and it paid off Sunday when we came out and were able to execute again and pick up that second win,” MacDougall said.

MacDougall acknowledged that it wasn’t all smooth-sailing against the Rhinos, despite the positive results, but was impressed with the prolonged nature of the Adrenaline’s performances. 

“It’s always a full team effort and you gotta put in the 60 minutes and I think for the first time this season it’s something we got really close to doing, we had a good 45-50 minute effort, it was still a bit of a grind at times,” he recalled. 

“But that’s the thing when you’re coming back into a league, you’ve got new guys on the team, everybody’s still trying to work to make things click, but it was definitely the first time we felt we gave an effort for close to 60 minutes.”

For context, the Adrenaline’s most recent Australian Ice Hockey League win heading into that weekend came on the 22nd of July, 2018, when they downed the Perth Thunder 2-1 at the Adelaide Ice Arena. 

What followed were trials and tribulations of the highest order. Trials and tribulations many clubs simply wouldn’t survive. 

Adelaide lost its final eight games of the 2018 season, to finish with a 5-23 record.

In 2019, the Adrenaline would go winless. 0-28. 

That was MacDougall’s first season with Adelaide, having made the move from Canada the year prior, and he described it as an undoubtedly tough period for the club. 

“It wasn’t great. There were issues from the locker room, and it wasn’t a very collective team, like the hockey culture in the room wasn’t great,” he said. 

“It was pretty divided. I think it obviously showed in the results of the season, which was too bad, because there were a lot of good guys on that team, a lot of key components, a lot of skill, but could just never find a way to put it all together and make it what it had the potential of being. 

“That’s just one of those things that kind of happens sometimes. You see it all the way up in the top leagues, on paper you look great but just can’t get it done out on the ice. 

“I think that was one of the downfalls of that season.” 

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They weren’t afforded the chance to bounce back in 2020 either, with the following two seasons cancelled due to COVID-19. 

And in 2022, with the Adrenaline slated for a much-anticipated revival as the AIHL returned, they stumbled into yet another roadblock, this time in securing an AIHL rink deal. 

MacDougall reveals it wasn’t all doom and gloom however, with an Adelaide side returning to their former ‘Avalanche’ moniker to compete in the newly-established Pacific Hockey League last year. 

“The majority of our core that are part of the Adrenaline this year were part of the (Avalanche) team as well,” he said. 

“With the circumstances that’s just the way it played out, and this year with that league having some issues and folding we’re now back to the Adrenaline, which some of the local guys have done a great job of getting back and making prominent again.”

MacDougall was able to see the benefits in the trying and evolving circumstances, for both the Adrenaline players and broader Adelaide ice hockey community, which are somewhat intertwined, with each holding the potential to benefit the other.

“It’s not like guys haven’t been playing, we did have that season last year, and again it was really good to be able to build off of that, and I think things have been building since late 2020 when local competitive leagues came back,” MacDougall said. 

“The creation of the NHSL, which was just a three-team local league out of Adelaide, raised the competition level and also got guys playing on different teams outside of their clubs which was good, and that flowing into the PHL season with the Avalanche, I think it’s been able to change guys perspective on the game and how it’s played. 

“Especially when you get on teams with guys you don’t normally play with, it’s a different perspective on the game and you learn different things from having different people around. 

“It’s something that’s definitely contributed to that good hockey culture and everybody wanting to be there and working for the same results, which is wins for the team every weekend.”

As for the AIHL itself, MacDougall is enjoying Adelaide’s return to the league in 2023. 

“It’s a very competitive league… guys know that it’s not gonna be easy and it’s gonna be a fight every night and we’re gonna have to work hard for wins,” he said.

“Even with our two wins last weekend, Central Coast may be sitting at the bottom of the division, but we were still grinding it out in areas of the ice which should’ve been a little easier for us, but we really had to fight to get the results that we wanted.”

Adelaide’s most recent clashes came on the road again, this time against the Brisbane Lightning, with the Adrenaline handed back-to-back losses.

It leaves their record at 2-4 through the opening six games, with work to be done. But when contrasted with the club’s 2019 campaign – their most recent in the AIHL – MacDougall sees positives aplenty.  

“The buy-in is there, the culture’s coming around, it feels more like a community within the dressing room as well, rather than just a bunch of guys going out and trying to get a win with a lot of individual efforts, MacDougall said. 

“It definitely feels more like those individual efforts are combining with your linemates, the team as a whole, and everybody’s working for the same goal.”

But regardless of how this season pans out, the Adelaide Adrenaline returned to the AIHL winner’s list. 

It was a day that, at one point or another over the past five years, would possibly never arrive. 

There’s a beauty in that momentary relief, as a 1742-day weight eases off your shoulders. 

That beauty isn’t lost on MacDougall. 

“It’s always tough when you’re coming off of two seasons where you don’t really win any games as the Adrenaline,” he said. 

“It’s a little bit of an added pressure that’s always there lingering in the background, but I think it’s just one of those things where as a team you’re really happy to be able to put together a win, not only for yourselves but for all the fans that have been loyal for the last five years now, that have stuck with the team. 

“Overall it’s great for us, but it’s also really nice to get that for the fanbase.”

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