Scott Stephenson was overseas when his Western Sydney Ice Dogs team defeated the minor premiers, the Newcastle North Stars 3-1 at Erina Ice World in 2004.
Nine years later, the Ice Dogs seem to have their best run at a Cup since 2004, and Scott Stephenson and his brothers Todd & Alec have the opportunity to make additions to their trophy cabinet.
It’s not for want of trying – the Ice Dogs have been in the finals eight of the last ten seasons, making the Cup final three times, in 2003, 2004 and 2008.
In 2013, the Ice Dogs feel they have an edge.
Since Shane Rose took over the team in late 2011, the team has attempted to rebuild themselves, modelling themselves after the successful Melbourne Ice to some degree, along with some of Rose’s own business-world touches.
Throughout their history, the Ice Dogs have lived the Western Sydney attitude: defiant and dogged. They see their mascot as a symbol of gutsy determination and loyalty.
But their hard-checking hard-working style has always had an Achilles heel, and that is penalties.
There is a direct correlation in 2010’s statistics between penalties and placement. In 2010, the Ice Dogs amassed a massive 1148 PIM, at an average of nearly 50 PIM a game. Consequently, the Ice Dogs finished at the bottom of the table in 2010.
The Ice Dogs can be canny penalty collectors, though. In 2012 they averaged 41.5 PIM a game but were still able to qualify for the 2012 AIHL Finals – in fourth place.
Liverpool’s boys can be strategic, focusing their aggression on opposition key players, such as in the 2011 semi-final versus Newcastle where they had Justin Chwedoruk tossed from the game, and tried to get Ezzy off his game by crashing his net.
Now in 2013, the Ice Dogs have their penalty average down to 24.7 PIM a game.
While this still makes them the second-most penalised team in the league (Knights highest at 30.8 PIM/game), this may be their least-penalised season ever.
The Ice Dogs have their deep core of Australian players, and another season’s crop of good imports.
Separate to these constants are two factors in the Ice Dogs current league-leading form.
The obvious factor is Anthony Kimlin in their net. The less obvious factor, is a new attitude to the cost of penalties.
These same two factors will be a crucial piece to the aspirations of the Sydney Ice Dogs to win a Goodall Cup in September.
Average PIM Per Game for Ice Dogs (by season)
2013: 24.7 PIM (after 13 games)
2012: 41.5 PIM (24 games)
2011: 29.4 PIM (28 games)
2010: 47.8 PIM (24 games)
2013 Ice Dogs PIM Leaders: David Dunwoodie (66), Joel Rhodes (57)