MELBOURNE/CHRISTCHURCH – The Melbourne Ice won the Australian Ice Hockey League in the league’s tenth year of existence. They defeated defending champion Adelaide Adrenaline in the final, 6-4.
The teams reached the final game after Melbourne edged the Sydney Bears, 2-1, in the semi-finals while Adelaide defeated the Newcastle North Stars, 7-6.
It’s the first title for Melbourne after it lost the finals in the four previous years. But this year their new arena, the Ice House, proved to be a lucky charm. The arena will also host the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division II Group A.
Although Adelaide held a 2-1 and 3-2 lead in the final, Melbourne came back twice. Canadian forward Matthew Armstrong, who played in the Netherlands last season, and Joey Hughes scored two goals each. Hughes, an Australian national team player, joined the team during the season after playing the last few years in the U.S.
Peter Cartwright was the league leader in points (88) and goals (41). After graduating and playing a season with the Central Hockey League’s Arizona Sundogs, the 26-year-old has become a year-round hockey player. He started last autumn with the Groningen Grizzlies in the Netherlands before moving to Australia. Soon after finishing the season in the South with Newcastle, he played his first games for the Dundee Stars of the British Elite Ice Hockey League.
One point behind Cartwright was his teammate Brian Bales, another former NCAA player from Alaska.Botany swarms to third title
The championship also ended in New Zealand as the Botany Swarm won its third championship in club history. It’s the third title in four years for the team.
The playoffs ended with an all-Auckland final between Botany and the West Auckland Admirals. Botany has won all 29 meetings between the two teams.
In the last game of the NZIHL’s 2010 season in front of a sell-out crowd of 1,200 fans at the Paradice Ice Arena, the Swarm kept their clean slate. But like many derbies, it was a tight and tough contest.
Ian Wannamaker scored two goals and national team captain Corey Down netted another one in the 3-1 victory.
The Botany Swarm counted on homegrown talent, although former Estonian national team player Alexander Polozov was the Swarm’s scoring leader. West Auckland counted on three Finns and two North Americans while the league’s scoring leader was 20-year-old national team player Christopher Eaden. The forward, who had 30 goals and 17 assists in 16 games, played in his fourth NZIHL season after a winter in Canada in between.
While the Canterbury Red Devils lost their NZIHL title, they won the first-ever national junior championship, the under-16 NZJEL.
Hockey in the Southern Hemisphere profited from the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The new rink in Melbourne was opened just before the Olympics to attract potential future winter athletes while the high TV ratings during Vancouver 2010 helped the NZIHL to show league games on television for the first time ever.
MARTIN MERKThe Botany Swarm won its third New Zealand title in four years. Photo: NZIHL