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Double trouble for Newcastle Northstars in season opener

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An understrength Newcastle Northstars suffered a horrid start to the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) season at the weekend.

Missing six regular players, due to international duties, the local outfit was thrashed 11-0 by the Melbourne Mustangs on Saturday night at the O’Brien Icehouse but fought strongly in a narrow 8-4 loss to the Melbourne Ice less than 24 hours later.

The Sunday fixture featured a whole-hearted performance.

Newcastle Northstars’ Shane Southwood. Photo: AK Hockey Shots

After trailing 3-1 at the end of the first term, the Northstars grabbed the lead 4-3, via goals to Daniel Berno, Andrew Smardon and Shane Southwood.

However, the Ice kept the visitors scoreless in the final period.

“As I told the guys, tonight was a gutsy effort,” head coach Kevin Noble said.

“Everyone from top to bottom had a significantly better night than the previous evening and, at the end of the day, that’s not the result we wanted.

“The points on the boards and in the standings are what matters.

“It’s a long season and we’ll work hard to come back.

“There were a number of penalties, and a couple of unfortunate calls our way but I didn’t think it was really indicative of costing us the game. To be fair, we just didn’t have enough tonight.”

“Matt (Montgomery) was good again.

“Honestly, he gave us a chance to win and that is just where his development is at.

“As a coach I couldn’t ask for anything more.

“But, it’s early days and there is nothing else to do.

“We go back to work and climb out of this position.”

Saturday’s showing was a different story, with a Matt Armstrong hat-trick leading the way for the Mustangs.

“We learned a lot [from that defeat],” Noble said.

“You learn from the good and you learn from the bad and this is one of those moments when our young guys gain a lot of experience.

“In games like this, there is no blame on anyone.

“What we take from this are the things we learn about each of our players.

“Matt (Montgomery) is one of them.

“He had a really good exhibition game for us, he’s been good during practice and he was really good in the third period.

“It was his first AIHL regular season match and he faced some really quality professional shooters in the Mustangs’ imports – and he stood tall.

“There’s a lot of takeaways from a game like that.

“However, from a coaching perspective, it’s one we leave on the ice.”

Noble admitted it was “a tough loss”.

“There’s no way about it when you lose like that,” he said.

“The message to our guys is that it is a long season and the belief in our locker room is that while our leadership is overseas, we’ll keep working hard and we can finish the season stronger than it has started.”

The Northstars will face the Sydney Bears on Saturday 29 April at the Macquarie Ice Rink, followed with their first home game on 7 May at Warners Bay.

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