Team Australia’s experience won through in the first match of the double header Trans Tasman ice hockey series in Dunedin last night winning 8-2. In front of a crowd of 2500 at Dunedin’s Ice Stadium, the Ice Blacks made a thrilling start with goals by Paris Heyd and Brett Speirs putting them up 2-1 within the first thirteen minutes of the game. The Ice Blacks have never beaten Australia at senior level and this was the first time in their 10 match history that they had hit the front. However Australia fought back to equalise, with the score 2-2 by the end of the first period.
It was a different game in the second period. New Zealand lost composure and Australia’s speed and skating skills kicked in to take them on a runaway goal-scoring spree to finish the second period up 7-2. The Ice Blacks had plenty of scoring opportunities but from the 29th minute until the end of the game collected six penalties.
The third period saw Australia content to keep the Ice Blacks at bay and a major penalty against NZ helped Australia score another goal and coast home to an 8-2 victory.
Rob Starke the Australia Captain gave credit to the Ice Blacks for their very strong start but put the win down to his team’s superior skating experience. “We played offensive and defensive, 2-way hockey which is why we were able to win.”
Captain of the Ice Blacks, Cory Down said that his relatively young New Zealand side, all aged under 25, let the pressure get to them. “This was the biggest home crowd that we have ever played in front of, I think that freaked out some of our younger players who wanted to do their country proud and be the game breakers. It didn’t go as we planned, we could have been tighter. We began with a lot of energy but that intensity dropped off.”
Goal scorers for Australia were John Halverson (4), Adrian Saul (2), Vladan Stransky (1) and Vladimir Rubes (1).
Rob Starke is not ruling out a tough match on Sunday when Australia meets the Ice Blacks again in Dunedin for the second test. “We won’t be taking them lightly, they’ll be trying hard to beat us especially on their home ice.”