The Thunder split the points in a pair of weekend games against the second-placed Newcastle Northstars at Perth Ice Arena. On Saturday, Louick Marcotte starred with a four-point game including a hat-trick (3G-1A-4PTS) as the Thunder downed Newcastle 5-3, extending the Northstars losing streak to five games.
In Sunday’s contest, the Northstars bounced back and ended their five-game slide, defeating the Thunder 7-3 in a penalty-filled affair. The Thunder had a hard time getting their game going as they were assessed a total of 38 penalty minutes to Newcastle’s 10. The Thunder found themselves two men short for a full two minutes on two separate occasions. Special teams were pivotal as the Northstars struck for three power-play goals. Newcastle’s attack was paced by Sammy Banga’s five-point night (0G-5A-5PTS) and three-point performance from Francis Drolet (2G-1A-3PTS).
Race For Final’s Positions Remains Tight
As the AIHL heads into the final month of the 2019 regular season, the Thunder remains embroiled in a fight for a spot in the AIHL Finals Series. Following Sunday’s defeat, the Thunder finds itself sitting in fourth position, three points ahead of the Melbourne Mustangs. The Mustangs hold a game in hand and also lead the tie-breaker over the Thunder. The Thunder remain just one point behind the Sydney Bears for third place on the AIHL ladder. A home game against the Bears on Saturday, 17th August may be the decisive factor in the race to avoid the CBR Brave in the AIHL semi-finals. The first thing is first however, and the Thunder are focussed on securing three points in their upcoming game against the Melbourne Ice.
Thunder Focussed on Clash with Ice
When the C.D Dodd Perth Thunder and Melbourne Ice faced off at Perth Ice Arena, all the way back on the 8th June, the teams were tied for the seventh spot on the AIHL ladder with eight points apiece. The Thunder defeated the Ice that day 5-2 in their only meeting this season to date. Over the past two months, the Thunder have opened a 17-point lead over the Ice, officially eliminating the Ice from Finals contention.
The Thunder will not be taking the Ice lightly, with every point being critical in the Final’s race. The Thunder will face the Ice three times in their remaining four games of the season, including a pair of games to finish the regular season in Melbourne on the 24th and 25th of August.
Will Jake Gilmour Draw Back Into Thunder Line-up?
The Thunder have been playing their best hockey of the season over the past 12 games and have gone 9-3 in that span and climbed into a Final’s position. They have also been managing five imports since the signing of Jake Gilmour in late June. Gilmour has been effective scoring nine points in five games played but has not seen the ice over the last four games. Head Coach Dave Ruck has done a masterful job of deploying the right mix of imports in that span, but it remains to be seen if he will opt to bring Gilmour back into the line up with just a single home game this weekend. Having five imports who are all playing well and contributing is a luxury the Thunder have enjoyed and it now becomes more important than ever to ice the best possible line-up game in and game out as the business end of the season is well and truly upon us. Sitting games at this time of the season are challenging but the Thunder are confident that Gilmour will be ready to contribute when he gets the call once more.
Next Thunder Home Game
To recap, the Thunder will return to home action on Sunday 11th August against the Melbourne Ice at 4:30 pm at Perth Ice Arena. It’s a single game only this weekend and the Thunder will return to home ice the following weekend for their regular-season home finale when they take on the Sydney Bears in another massive game with huge Finals implications.
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