The Perth Thunder have come away from a tough series at home with the points split between the teams. Michael Dorr was again an important factor in the Thunder's offense, scoring crucial goals in both games. The Thunder team, dressed up pretty in pink for breast cancer, knuckled down and took the opportunity to bounce back and claim a massive 4-3 comeback win on Saturday in the shootout after being down 3-0 to start the final period.
The weekend’s first affair was a gruelling effort on the Thunder's behalf. They struggled at times with the Brave’s tight defensive play in the neutral zone which kept the potent import line from getting set up in front of the Canberra net.
Coach David Kenway however, praised the team’s effort to dig deep and battle back in the Third period to claim the win in the shootout.
"We dug deep; we just spoke in change room about having a bit of work ethic and a bit of heart, that there’s plenty of talent in the room but no one is really stepping up and leading the way and playing with the intensity and passion that we need," Kenway told Perth Thunder reporters following the game. "Then they all just came out and flipped the switch and away they went."
The third period’s goals came from the Thunder's top unit. The trio, consisting of Sabres draft pick Ben Breault, Michael Dorr, and New Brunswick native Jesynko Bernard (who netted the team’s first goal of the weekend less than 20 seconds in to the final period) scored all three of goals needed to take the game past regulation.
The Brave’s collapse began at the end of the second, with misconducts being handed out to two of their top import players.
The Thunder took advantage of this, and Brave coach Josh Unice acknowledged the team’s frustration after the game had finished.
"We were getting frustrated by things that were out of our control," Unice said. "But when we look over at the box and we have three of our imports in there and two of them for misconduct penalties, it’s tough to play." Perth always bring it, they have a great goalie and they play hockey the right way and it was a great game from them."
Breault and Dorr also scored goals in the third to allow the Thunder to take the game to the shootout where it was again Breault and Bernard who capitalised on their chances, bringing home what was a massive comeback win for the home team.
The following day, the result went in favour of the Brave, who came out ready to earn back some of the points available over the weekend.
This time however, the matchup was more evenly contested from the outset of the first period. The Thunder were moving far better up the ice on the breakout, and the game began with a pace from the home side that was somewhat lacking twenty-four hours earlier.
The Brave on the other hand, relied on their physical play to set the tone early on, and the Thunder players were on the receiving end of the majority of the hits in the opening stanza.
The Perth side have always been regarded as a speedy offensive team, and the Brave rely on their size and heavy fore-checking to get in the zone, where they cycle the puck better than most other teams in the AIHL. Coach Kenway recognised this after Sunday’s physical matchup.
"Canberra are a big team and they play a physical game, and we need to get stronger on the puck," he said. "However we’re a very skilful team, we pass the puck around and like to play with speed, that’s what we do. Obviously the physical aspect makes an impact but we focus more on our teams speed, getting into the zone and eluding other teams."
With the Thunder going 1-4 on the powerplay, and the Brave earning two goals on their powerplay efforts during Sunday’s game, Kenway also mentioned his teams struggle with special teams as a contributing factor for the team’s loss in the second game.
"Your special teams have got to fire and on the night they have to be on point, the PK has to kill the penalty and the PP has to score a goal," he said. "If you don’t do that you’re going to be on the back foot and Canberra took their chances tonight and got it done."
With two goals apiece to import forwards Jan Safar, and Quebec bative Mathieu Guertin, and Perth’s only goals coming from Dorr and Rob Haselhurst, the Brave were able to earn back one of the weekend’s games in what was a tough one for the both sides to play after such a Gruelling matchup the day before.
"This weekend was a battle between two very evenly matched teams and I think we played really well," Unice said after the Brave’s victory on Sunday. "It could have easily been six points to either team and we came away with four. To come all the way over to Perth and steal the majority of the points is a successful weekend."
With these crucial points, the Brave move up into a playoff position whilst the Thunder move down into third spot directly in front of their Canberra rivals. The Newcastle Northstars now sit behind the league’s top team in second after they managed to take points over the weekend against the first place Melbourne Ice, who earned their first regulation loss of the season.
The Thunder however will now have to sit for a week before heading over to play in games against both the Sydney Bears and Ice Dogs on July 23/24.