Saturday, August 5, 2017 - Submitted by Alex Jacobs
The Adelaide Avalanche secured its first win in nearly a decade as they held off the second-place Perth Thunder 4-3 in a thrilling contest in front of a capacity IceArenA crowd.
Two early goals set the tone for Adelaide in a fast, furious and fun clash with Joey Rezek and Cam Critchlow scoring twice each.
The win was Adelaide’s sixth of the season and second in their past four games, and as former Avalanche coach, John Botterill returned to the coaches bench alongside Sami Mantere, he said there was a lot of passion out on the ice.
“You could tell from the drop of the puck the boys were there and just brought in the passion and pride,” Botterill said.
“They were there for the logo on the front and for the hundred guys that have played for that logo. Like I said to the boys, it has a lot of blood, sweat and a few sets of teeth and broken bones.”
Rezek had the opening goal 50 seconds in when he bettered a scrambling Peter Di Salvo. Critchlow had forced the goalie into an opening move before passing to Rezek in space who was easily able to score into an open net. The finish erupted the crowd and set the tone for the whole game.
The second goal arrived a few minutes later as Ales Kratoska and Rezek combined to set up Critchlow. Kratoska’s opening pass down the right wing found Rezek who pushed through Perth’s backline, before passing off to Critchlow. The top scorer for the Avalanche in 2017 fired in his 18th goal of the year from close range.
At the other end, Matt Murphy was showing off all his skills with toe saves and safe hands. Twice he kept Ben Breault at bay despite hard hit shots from distance, while his left foot kept the Thunder out despite a 3-on-1 charge.
Greg Oddy was also at his best in a superb start, and you could be excused for forgetting he was playing the Avalanche back in 1999.
Unfortunately a surging Jessyko Bernard and Ben Breault combined for Perth’s opening goal with Bernard putting up the perfect cross from left wing. With Breault just centimetres from goal he was able to flick it into the open net.
The second period saw the score double and the Avalanche pushed out to a 4-1 lead before the Thunder pegged them back.
Building up the three goal lead it was a side-to-side attack from Rezek and Critchlow which broke apart Perth’s defence. An incisive pass from Critchlow found Rezek to the left of goal and his sneaky-yet-brilliant goal into the bottom of the net caught Di Salvo off guard.
Marcel McGuiness set up David Huxley for what could have been Adelaide’s fourth, although the latter helped set up the eventual goal. In a congested goal mouth, Huxley’s hit rebounded to Critchlow who rifled in the puck from directly in front.
It left Adelaide in a promising position, and on track for a win. With a packed house and Avalanche history to play for, Botterill said it was great to have something extra motivate the club.
“Through a season, just trying to get up for game after game after game you gotta find that little reason to be 10% better,” he explained.
“Especially in this league there’s so many good teams. Getting that 10% is the difference between winning and losing and tonight that was the difference.”
In response the Thunder launched attack after attack and when the Avalanche failed to collect possession in defence it was Breault who collected a nice goal on a high flick.
As time ticked down, Casey Babineau put up a great defensive play against Bernard with a lunging intercept while there was desperation from the likes of Critchlow and Huxley with game saving plays.
With just under five minutes left, Rezek’s slap shot nearly fooled Di Salvo, before a slashing penalty to Kratoska truly made it an exciting finish. The Avalanche were up to the challenge, though, holding firm over the final two minutes for a huge win against one of the season’s best teams.
“The boys were committed,” Botterill said.
"At this level you have to play hard and physically, mentally be ready to make that sacrifice for the rest of the guys. They did that today and that’s the thing about ice hockey – you get wins and losses so you got to enjoy the wins.”