This is the first in a series of reviews of important games from the history of the Australian Ice Hockey League. We start with the introduction of the Perth Thunder as an official AIHL team.
The Date: May 5th, 2012.
The Time: 4:30pm local time
The Place: Perth Ice Arena, Malaga
Game Review – Canberra Knights @ Perth Thunder
At 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon in Malaga, referee Cory Ross dropped the puck at the Perth Ice Arena to start the game between the Canberra Knights and the newly-formed Perth Thunder. Canberra struck first with a goal from Jordan Gavin at 4:40 in the first, assisted by John Kennedy Jr and Nic Polaski. The Thunder responded 12 seconds later when import Ken Rolph scored Perth’s first ever official AIHL goal, assisted by Phil Ginand and Robert Bird, at 4:28 of the first, to take the teams to the first intermission locked at one goal apiece.
Nic Polaski scored his first goal of the game at 9:31 of the second period, assisted by Lucas Schott and Jordan Gavin. The Thunder tied the game back up with a very late goal from David Ruck, assisted by Jordan Kyros and Andrew Cox, at 0:01. The teams headed to the locker rooms tied at two.
Rolph was once again at the centre of the action, as he scored at 14:04 of the third period, assisted by Paul Graham – this was the first time the Thunder had ever had the lead in an AIHL game. The Knights tied it up with a power play goal to Nic Polaski, assisted by John Kennedy Jr, at 11:09, with Ginand in the box for hooking. The score would stay that way until the end of the game, earning Perth a point in their first match, and taking the game to a shootout. Canberra would win the shootout on a solitary goal by Harri Byers, with Rolph, Ginand and Ruck all being denied for Perth. As so the game finished, writing in the history books that the Perth Thunder had played their first official game in the Australian Ice Hockey League.
Key Player Statistics
Ken Rolph – 2 goals for 2 points
David Ruck – 1 goal for 1 point
Paul Graham – 1 assist for 1 point
Phil Ginand – 1 assist for 1 point
Robert Bird – 1 assist for 1 point
Jordan Kyros – 1 assist for 1 point
Andrew Cox – 1 assist for 1 point
Nic Polaski – 2 goals 1 assist for 3 points
Jordie Gavin – 1 goal 1 assist for 2 points
John Kennedy Jr – 2 assists for 2 points
Lucas Schott – 1 assist for 1 point
Where Are They Now?
Following the careers of a few players of the game:
Ken Rolph: Ken was named MVP for the Thunder in their inaugural season, and returned to Perth for the 2013 season. He returned home to Ontario, Canada to play the next few seasons for the Elora Rocks in the WOAA league.
Phil Ginand: Phil finished the season with a team high 50 points (26G 24A), which was the team record until least year (when Benjamin Breault scored 52 points). Phil returned to play for the Bloomington Blaze (based in Bloomington, Illinois) of the Central Hockey League for one season. The CHL folded in 2014, with the Blaze changing their name to (of all things) the Bloomington Thunder and joining the SPHL.
David Ruck: David would end up playing 80 games for the Thunder, playing through to the end of the 2015 season. During this time, he would score 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points at 0.4 points per game. David is presently the head coach for the Thunder, taking over from David Kenway.
Jordan Kyros: Jordan is still playing for the Thunder, having played in 139 games for the team – a team record. He currently has 33 goals and 75 assists for 108 points, scoring at 0.8 points per game.
Kiefer Smiley: Kiefer spent one season in the AIHL, playing in 23 games for 10 wins as 12 losses. His Goals Against Average was 3.41 and his save percentage was 0.893. Smiley returned to the Mississippi Surge of the SPHL, the team he was playing for before joining the Thunder. He then played for the Louisiana IceGators of the same league the next season.
The official game report can be found here. The Thunder would have to wait another eight days before they could register the first win in franchise history, a 5-2 win over the Mustangs. As it turns out, the current Thunder team play the Sydney Bears on Saturday the 13th of May, exactly five years after that first victory.
So now you have read the history of the first ever Perth Thunder game, is there a game you would like to see reviewed in a similar fashion? Due to limitations in the historical information on the AIHL web site, I can only confidently review games from about 2010 onwards. What would you like to see?