A special teams blitz from the Perth Thunder has helped the boys from the west regain second spot in the AIHL standings, with a 6-3 Sunday win splitting the weekend series with the Melbourne Mustangs one game apiece.
After a tight 2-1 loss on Saturday, Minnesota native Michael Dorr decided that David Kudla’s 100th AIHL game needed to be marked with a special performance, and Dorr duly saluted with four goals, including an AIHL-record three short-handed and another on the power play to cap a five-point night.
Canadian Ben Breault and stand-in captain Andrew Cox weren’t half bad either, each tallying a goal and two assists, while not one of the nine goals in the game was scored five on five (four short-handed, four power play, one 4-on-4) as the special teams went ballistic.
The weekend started on a slightly sourer note, with Ben Breault scoring the only Thunder goal in a 2-1 loss to the Melbourne Mustangs on Saturday, as a third period goal from Mustangs captain Pat O’Kane proved the difference.
The loss sent Perth down to third place in the standings as the Newcastle North Stars leap-frogged in to second with their 3-1 win over the CBR Brave, and the rematch against the Mustangs would prove to be one of the strangest games of the season.
The Thunder entered Sunday’s game desperate to reclaim their spot in the top two, and Michael Dorr started proceedings by intercepting a blue-line pass on the penalty kill before scoring on the ensuing breakaway 10 minutes in to the first period.
Jessyko Bernard was then assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding shortly after, and the Mustangs looked to swing the momentum of the game as they scored less than 90 seconds in to the major power play.
Dorr then scored possibly the most bizarre goal this season, as he maintained possession of the puck on the same penalty kill, skated back in to his own zone, then launched a slap-shot clearance from the defensive zone faceoff circle that, somehow, beat Fraser Carson high to the glove side.
The Thunder took the 2-1 lead to the first intermission, and Dorr completed a hatrick early in the second period with a power play goal, pouncing on a rebound to bury a short-side shot and take a 3-1 lead.
The Mustangs closed the gap to 3-2 on the back of Vadim Virjassov’s second of the game coming with less than a minute remaining in the period as the sides skated four-on-four.
The Mustangs then took a penalty and the Thunder wasted no time restoring the two-goal gap, with Andrew Cox tipping in Per Daniel Goransson’s shot-pass at the back post with nine seconds left in the second period to restore a 4-2 advantage.
It was a case of déjà vu on the fourth Dorr goal, as he scored again on a short-handed breakaway to complete the first short-handed hatrick in AIHL history, before the Mustangs tallied again on the same power play to close the gap to 5-3.
Breault then capped an extraordinary night for the Thunder special teams, scoring short-handed in to an empty Mustangs net to seal a 6-3 win that propelled the Thunder back in to second place in the standings.
Perth now return home to face fourth-placed CBR Brave on July 9 on Perth’s charity night, where the players will be wearing pink jerseys to raise money for the McGrath Foundation, which funds breast cancer care nurses.