Being a third liner in the AIHL can be a tough gig. Train hard, travel and suit up in the hope of getting a shift on gameday. One bad shift and you risk having your already limited ice time cut or you could find yourself out of the team altogether.
While the Melbourne Ice had a weekend of contrasts in the double against the Adelaide Adrenaline, it was the Ice’s third/youth line of Mitch Humphries, Chris Wong and Andrew Erzen that was one of the genuine positives to have come out of the weekend. The trio of Humphries, Wong & Erzen provided exactly what is required of a third line in the AIHL. In Saturday’s encounter they provided a spark to a listless Ice outfit and on Sunday they were superb on the forecheck ensuring that a rattled Adrenaline outfit didn’t get an opening to get back into the contest.
They simply didn’t waste a shift and have sent a message to coach Sandy Gardner that they not only deserve more ice time in the coming weeks but more so they’ve earned the right for more opportunities to show their wares on the big stage.
Out of the three Humphries has the most experince in the AIHL having often been cycled through the lines over the past two seasons. Humphries’ development has benefitted from spending the Australian summer playing junior hockey in the United States. Humphries left as a skinny kid and come back as a much more imposing physical figure and with the size to add to his skill Humphries is poised to take his game to another level.
Wong, now in his third season with the Ice has already shown that he has a knack getting himself into scoring positions, having already scored three goals in 32 AIHL games with minimal ice time. Wong’s strength is his tremendous turn of speed. Add to that a determination to fight for puck that is in vicinity means Wong is capable of unsettling opposition defences as he did to the Adrenaline.
Erzen, the most blue collar of the Ice forwards looked as composed and as confident as he has thus far in his AIHL career. Often in-and-out of the line-up, Erzen can find his niche if he can continue to focus on the basics as he did against the Adrenaline; bring energy to every shift, finish his checks and ensure he is focusing getting to correct positions on the ice.
With key matches against genuine Goodall Cup contenders Newcastle and the Sydney Ice Dogs in the next three weeks, productive contributions from the third line could be difference between victory and defeat for the Melbourne Ice.