The dust has settled in Queenstown and after one game, the New Zealand Ice Blacks hold a 1-0 series lead over the Australian Mighty Roos. This first game of the 2018 Trans-Tasman challenge was a tightly-contested affair, though those who witnessed last year’s series where the Ice Blacks won Game 1 only to narrowly lose the following two games know that celebrating now would be premature.
Australia took the ice with purpose, putting a goal past kiwi netminder Daniel Lee early on in Period 1 and controlling much of the period’s pace. The goal came courtesy of Tommy Powell, a veteran for the Roos squad who has played fifteen seasons for the Melbourne Ice. However New Zealand rebounded well and before the period had ended they struck twice. Long-time Ice Black Dale Harrop scored goal number one and had a hand in goal number two, which was scored by Connor Harrison, who tucked the puck past Australian goaltender Charlie Smart.
In the second period of play, New Zealand broadened their lead courtesy of a goal from Alex Polozov courtesy of a clever feed from long-time Skycity Stampede player and debut Ice Black Ryan Strayer. Late in Period 2 a sloppy defensive scramble on New Zealand’s part led to a late goal for the Mighty Roos, a beautiful tic-tac-toe effort finished off by Tomas Sak, who put the puck past Lee to bring the Australian side within one. To make matters worse for the host team, Oliver Hay committed a late penalty that gave Australia almost a full two-minute power play to begin Period 3.
In the final period of play, Australia put forth sustained pressure and looked dangerous for long stretches. However, the Ice Blacks were determined to broaden their lead and refused to turtle up as the period wound down. One more goal cemented the score at 4-2 when Ben Gavoille deflected a shot by Chris Eaden that ping-ponged off the inside posts and in. Much as New Zealand had committed the late penalty in Period 2, Australia found themselves short-handed, taking a two-minute penalty with only two minutes and fifteen seconds remaining on the clock. This made it difficult for the Roos to develop much momentum toward a comeback attempt and the 4-2 score held at the final buzzer.
Australia awarded MVP of the match to Vadim Virjassov while New Zealand’s honours went to Ryan Strayer.
The series still belongs to anyone with games on the slate for Friday and Saturday nights at Queenstown Ice Arena, where limited tickets are still available via EventFinda.