Premier League - Semi Final - Game 3
Falcons 6 - Tigers 3
Ales Kratoska (46) rifles home the first of two goals past Tigers' goalie Rusty Brewer in the third period of Game Three of the Premier League Semi Final, last Wednesday. [ PHOTO - Ian Thurston ]
The Adelaide Falcons have broken a seven year drought and advanced to their first Grand Final since 2010 after defeating the Adelaide Tigers 6 - 3 and winning the Best of Three Premier League Semi Final Series two games to one.
Falcons’ head coach John Botterill may have been left with some concerns during the first and second periods, with the Tigers holding a 2 - 1 lead going into the last intermission, but those worries turned into smiles in the third period as the Falcons rallied scoring five goals in the final period to win the game and claim the series.
Canadian Cole MacMillan, and Czech Republic star Ales Kratoska both scored two goals each to lead the Falcons, with Cameron Critchlow, and Jayson James rounding out the ledger, and leading Big Blue to their first championship final in seven years at the top level.
For the Tigers, James Keane added two goals and an assist, with Ryan Foll a single. This marks the first time in seven years that the Tigers will not challenge for the title.
The Falcons opened the scoring when local product Jayson James beat the Tigers goalie Rusty Brewer on a passing play from Kratoska and Joe Rezek near the midway point in the first period.
Throughout the first 20 minutes of play the Tigers pressed, testing Falcons’ goalie Ian Hunter with several big scoring opportunities. Keane finally tied the score with an unassisted goal and then Foll fired a go ahead goal just before the buzzer, giving the Gold n' Black a one goal lead at the break.
In the second period the Falcons increased their pressure in the offensive zone, peppering Brewer with some point blank drives, but the Tigers keeper was up to the task, stopping the attacks, and the period ended with no goals scored.
“We knew from previous games that the Tigers have a skilled team, but a short bench and would stay with us early,” said Botterill.
“Brewer played two great periods, including stopping us on 15 shots in the second period, and that helped them stay in the game”
“During the second break, I told the guys to keep to the game plan and keep persisting, play good defense and if we can get one goal, we were hoping it would rattle Rusty (Brewer) and give us the upper hand.”
Kratoska levelled the score near the five minute mark of the third when he beat Brewer to the glove side.
A couple of shifts later, and MacMillan turned on the jets, driving toward the Tigers goal, beating Brewer to the far stick side to put the Falcons back in front.
( Pictured - From left - Ales Kratoska, Head Coach John Botterill, Cole MacMillan )
From that point onward however, the Falcons over ran the Tigers, scoring three goals in the final eight minutes to seal the win and the series. “ Once we started connecting in the third period, they (Tigers) seemed to crack under the constant pressure.” added Botterill.
After the game, a disappointed Tigers captain Glen Foll, said the Tigers probably missed a few scoring chances, which could have made a difference.
“We needed our goalie (Rusty Brewer) to come up big for us, but we also needed to capitalise on the scoring chances we got.” said the Tigers skipper. “Rusty played great, but we didn’t score on all our chances.”
“We played without regular defense pairings” said Foll. "We missed having someone of the calibre of Ben Gebert in the lineup. said Foll. Gebert , a member of the Adelaide Adrenaline this past AIHL season, did not play enough IHSA games to qualify for the finals series, and it left the Tigers weak on the back lines. "Certainly, having a high scoring forward like Jamie (Holland) back playing defense, limited our offensive opportunities"., added the former national team player.
The Falcons outshot the Tigers 40 - 33 with Hunter stopping 30 shots to get the win, while Brewer stopped 34 of 40 in the loss for the Tigers.
The victory advances the Falcons into the Best of Three Premier League Grand Final against the Minor Premier Adelaide Redwings. It is the first time these two teams have met for the Grand Final at the top level since 1971. Both teams have met each other seven times, but that was between 1965-1971 when the IHSA played at the Hindley Street rink. Of those seven nostelgic Grand Final meetings, the Redwings hold a 4-3 edge in championship wins between the two clubs.
The Falcons have won 12 Premierships in the 53 year old history of IHSA, and the Redwings, 9.
The Redwings have won the last two Premierships in 2015 and 2016, while the last Falcons Premiership was back in 2010.
During the 2017 Minor Round, the Redwings had a 4 - 1 - 0 - 1 record over the Falcons, but both teams were even in goals scored at 40 - 40.
The Opening Game of the Best of Three Grand Final starts Saturday 9 September at 3:45pm, with Game 2 slated for Saturday 16 September at 5:15pm. Game three date and time (if necessary) to be announced.
SCORING - Falcons -10:26 - Jayson James (A. Kratoska, J. Rezek): Tigers - 2:38 - James Keane (unassisted): Tigers - 0:30 - Ryan Foll (A. Stapleton, J. Keane)
PENALTIES - Falcons - 8:35 - Cameron Critchlow (Tripping): Falcons - 1:50 - Matt Wegener (Holding)
SCORING - No Scoring
PENALTIES - Tigers -14:36 - Jamie Holland (Delay of Game): Tigers - 8:28 - Glen Foll (Tripping)
SCORING - Falcons - 14:40 - Ales Kratoska (unassisted): Falcons - 10:38 - Cole MacMillan (J. Rezek, C. Critchlow): Tigers - 8:05 - James Keane (G. Foll, J. Holland): Falcons - 8:00 - Cole MacMillan (C. Critchlow, A. Kratoska): Falcons - 5:28 - Ales Kratoska (C. MacMillan, C. Critchlow): Falcons - 4:26 - Cameron Critchlow (A. Kratoska, C. MacMillan)
PENALTIES - Falcons - 9:59 - Quenton Tombleson (Interference): Falcons - 8:32 - Joe Rezek (Interference)
SHOTS ON GOAL 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Falcons 9 15 16 40
Tigers 13 6 14 33
GOALKEEPERS - Falcons - Ian Hunter: Tigers - Rusty Brewer
GAME OFFICIALS - Referees - Mark Suncyzk & Mike Gainer: Linesmen - Hayden Crafter & Dave Gal
Scorer - Nicola Reese: Time Keeper - Claire Wise