Perth had an early two-goal lead thanks to Louick Marcotte and Kieren Webster, but penalties proved costly for the Thunder as the Bears’ Adam Dauda and Jake Ratcliffe cashed in to tie the game in the first period.
From there, the Bears took over the game. Dauda added his second before Jeremy Brucker potted an insurance marker for a 4-2 lead.
The third period was dominated by the Thunder but Bears goaltender Anthony Kimlin stood tall in net to repel the onslaught.
Finals MVP Danick Gaultier sealed the game with an empty net tally to clinch the championship for the Bears and commence celebrations.
The win was especially sweet for Bears veteran Vladimir Rubes. The 48-year-old Czech native has been with the club since 1999 and returned to the playing roster in 2016 after a three-year stint coaching the team.
“We really felt we could do it today. Being two goals down and coming back, we really believed we were going to do it,” said Rubes.
“It feels pretty special and it’s amazing.”
After finishing the regular season as the fourth-placed qualifier, the Bears shocked the regular season leaders CBR Brave in the semi-final to advance to the final.
The Brave dominated the regular season, winning 26 of 28 games. Led by former Boston Bruins draft pick Jesse Gabrielle and goaltender Matt Climie, they looked a sure bet to claim back-to-back Goodall Cups.
Their form held true early in the semi-final, as they led the Bears 3-2 after two periods. But the Bears had other ideas and rallied with four goals in the third period to claim a 6-4 victory.
For Bears’ captain Michael Schlamp, the win exacted revenge for the Bears’ 2018 Goodall Cup final loss to the Brave.
“We came close last year but lost in overtime. We really wanted some redemption this year,” said Schlamp.
“The boys played awesome this weekend. It was unreal.”
In the other semi-final, the Perth Thunder overcame a spirited Newcastle Northstars side – and their boisterous home support – to skate away with a 3-2 win.
After finishing the season in third place, Perth elevated their play to advance to their first Goodall Cup final in team history.
The Melbourne Mustangs finished fifth on the ladder, as they pushed hard with the Bears for the final playoff spot but came up short.
Sydney Ice Dogs’ Canadian import Tim Crowder led the league in scoring with 77 points but he was unable to lift his side higher than sixth place in the standings.
Perennial contenders the Melbourne Ice had another poor showing, as they missed the postseason for the second consecutive year. Prior to their recent slump, they hadn’t missed the playoffs since 2005.
But the Adelaide Adrenaline had an entirely forgettable season as they lost every game. If it wasn’t for two overtime-loss points, they would have nothing to show at all.
With the season operating over the northern hemisphere summer, the clubs saw an increase in overseas players plying their trade in the league.
ECHL alumni Garrett Bartus, Tim Crowder, Brayden Low and Trey Phillips all helped to boost the standard of the on-ice product, while games also continued to be showcased on local Fox Sports television and live streamed online.
AIHL MVP: Dylan Quaile, Sydney Ice Dogs
Finals MVP: Danick Gaultier, Sydney Bears
Best Defenceman: Dylan Quaile, Sydney Ice Dogs
Local player of the Year: Kieren Webster, Perth Thunder
Rookie of the Year: Jake Ratcliffe, Sydney Bears
Best Goaltender: Matt Climie, CBR Brave
Coach of the Year: John Kennedy Jr, Newcastle Northstars