By JORDYN GRUBISIC
Melbourne Mustangs’ playoff hopes hinge on the team winning both games this weekend, with the results of other matches also needed to swing in their favour.
This follows a 6-1 loss to the Sydney Ice Dogs at O’Brien Arena on Sunday.
The loss keeps the Mustangs sitting just outside the top four, trailing four points behind the Sydney Bears, who currently sit in fourth position heading into the last round of the Australian Ice Hockey League regular season.
The Ice Dogs set the pace for the game, scoring quickly within the opening minutes of the first period and continued to outplay the Mustangs for the rest of the match.
Mustangs coach Max Langelier-Parent said the team was not in the correct mindset before the game, and that this had an impact on the opening period.
“We were just flat with no energy in the first period,” Langelier-Parent said.
“Before we started our warmup I had a feeling that we’re not quite ready – mentally we’re not ready, we’re a bit too relaxed," he said.
“You want to find that middle where everyone is relaxed, but focused, and I think that focus wasn’t there.
“I try to communicate that as much as possible to the players but I probably should’ve taken a stronger stance on the importance of the game and making sure that everyone’s head is in the game.
“I think a big thing I’m trying to tell the guys today is that it hurts right now but we’ve got to make sure we learn and move on from it.”
The second period saw the Mustangs getting back into the game with one goal scored by the Ice Dogs.
The third period was the standout for the Mustangs as it saw them bringing a physical period that saw their first, and only, goal of the match scored by forward Jamie Bourke with eight minutes to go.
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, they couldn’t convert their 34 attempts for shots on goal with Ice Dogs goalkeeper Garrett Bartus proving to be a difficult barrier to get past.
Forward Matt Anderson and captain Michael McMahon both had solid games for the Mustangs despite the disappointing first period.
“Matty Anderson played good [on Sunday], he’s had a really standout season,” Langelier-Parent said.
“I think McMahon, our captain, played a solid game again, but I feel in general the group was very shaky in the first period… but these two guys had a good game overall.
“I’m pleased with their performance”.
Sydney’s Paul Crowder proved tough for goalkeeper Kevin Nastiuk, scoring half of the Ice Dogs’ goals whilst league-leading scorer Tim Crowder was kept to one.
“I thought the guys played better in the second and third period but I think the first period dragged some of the guys down,” Langelier-Parent said.
The Mustangs are now hopeful of turning things around this weekend.
“Hopefully we get some of the other teams to help us out to get a chance for playoffs,” Langelier-Parent said.
“But that’s out of our control so for now we’ll just focus on ourselves and do the best we can.
“It’s a bit unfortunate that we lost, I think we’ve had a very good past few weeks and given ourselves a chance to get into a playoff contending position”.
The match is this week’s Australian Ice Hockey League Game of the Week on Fox Sports, and the replay will be broadcast on Thursday at 6am on Channel 505.