A third period comeback wasn’t enough for the Newcastle Northstars on Saturday, going down 4-3 against the Sydney Bears in over-time in their second match-up of the year.
The Bears had their first game at the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium since they won the Goodall Cup in the same building in 2019, the last time the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) ran in its full national format.
Both teams had plenty of youth in their line-ups, and it was those youngsters who featured on the scoresheet with the majority of goals scored by rookie players.
After a strong start, the Northstars took a first minute 1-0 lead thanks to David Jeremy, a call-up from NSW’s East Coast Super League, a feeder competition for the three NSW-based AIHL teams.
The Bears replied with a goal by Ellesse Carini, with the period ending at 1-all.
The second term belonged to Sydney, with Thomas Steven and debutante Callum Wardlaw putting the visitors ahead 3-1.
Newcastle coach John Kennedy Jr called for the team to win the one-on-one battles, and his chargers answered.
With increased energy and compete paying dividends, Jeremy scored his second, assisted by Ethan Hawes and Patrick Ward; while Connor Schultz and Mackenzie Gallagher combined to allow Hunter Ellen to join the rookie goal rush, bringing the local crowd to its feet.
A tense eight minutes followed without score, requiring over-time to break the 3-all deadlock.
The shootout was just 10 seconds long, the Bears bursting past the Northstars defence to score on the rush and take the game.
The Newcastle outfit will have two weeks to rest and prepare for its next big challenge – a double-header weekend in Canberra against the CBR Brave on 19 and 20 June.
The Northstars then return to the Hunter Ice Skating Stadium for a clash with the Sydney Ice Dogs on Sunday 27 June, from 4pm.