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Brave Northstars fall agonisingly short after triple-header finale

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A gallant Newcastle Northstars fell agonisingly short of its main target in the finals of the 2022 Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) at the weekend.

The Hunter-based outfit ventured to Melbourne for the end of season play-offs but suffered a 6-1 defeat at the hands of the CBR Brave, which relegated the locals into the preliminary showdown.

There, the Northstars produced a stunning come-from-behind 4-3 victory, at the expense of the Sydney Bears on Saturday, in overtime.

Home-grown alternate captain Patrick Nadin sealed the triumph.

“He’s one of our young guys who just genuinely loves the game for the purity of what hockey is,” Newcastle head John Kennedy Jnr said.

“Pat works hard and he proves himself time and time again.

“The way he played on Saturday following his suspension was phenomenal.

“It just made sense that someone with such a great character and being such an established young gentleman in the locker room would be able to turn things around and get that goal.”

The Northstars then prepared themselves to lock horns with the Brave in the decider on Sunday afternoon.

But, it was the Canberra side, which would walk away with the 3-2 victory, claiming the 2022 AIHL title.

“It was a huge weekend,” Kennedy Jnr said.

“We wanted to play as much hockey together as we could – and we did that.

“It’s not the result that we wanted, however we can live with the effort that we gave over this whole weekend and especially today [Sunday].

“The way we played is the way we wanted to play hockey.

“It was a fast and physical game and, regardless of the score, we gave it our all.”

Kennedy also shared his experience of the entire AIHL Finals series.

“In regard to the new format for the AIHL, I will be the first to say that I am a fan of it,” he said.

“It’s the right way to do it.

“Even though we were the ones who had the longer road to the final, at the end of the day to win the championship we had that second chance.

“The only change I’d suggest in that format would be to play 1st versus 2nd as the 5pm game on the first day and on the Sunday play the grand final at 5pm to give the players as much rest as possible.

“The whole team behind this weekend have done a great job bringing it all together.

“It’s been fun for the fans and players… and it has been very enjoyable.

“I really appreciated the Welcome to Country before each match.”

Kennedy Jnr admitted he was full of admiration for the Northstars.

“I am very proud of the boys and the conditioning we have gone through with all our training and practice this year,” he said.

“I want to give full credit to Kevin Noble and congratulations to him for winning coach of the year and pushing the guys at training so that we were ready to do that.

“It helps when we have an outstanding goalie like Charlie Smart, who can just hold down the fort for the team.

“We wouldn’t have been here in this situation if it wasn’t for him this weekend.

“It’s been so good having him back in the net and doing what he does best.

“We weren’t able to have Charlie for the whole season due to uni, but you can just see the professionalism in him.

“He’s such a calm player and a calming presence to the team, you just always feel like, you know, we’re in this game.

“{Sunday] there were two goals that I am sure he would like to have back.

“But, at the end of the day, we battled for him and he shut the door so we could come back into the game.

“He just does his thing, supports the team and he is a top-notch goalie, and I would say one of the best in the country.

“A weekend like this is a collaboration of so many things.

“And, once again, a team effort from everyone where they all pulled their weight, everyone was participating, and I would go to battle with these guys any day of the week.”

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