After watching some very entertaining games during the season (for me from the player benches), it all came down to the Grand Final of the Blackwood Junior A Inline summer season. Having played as goaltender for the last few weeks (to see how the other half lived perhaps) prolific goal scorer Rory Moffat was back as a player for the big one, but this time not on my bench sadly. Without two junior goalies the other goaltending slot was filled by adult Stoyan Shopov donning his Adelaide Summer League Unicorns jersey, and regular (much smaller) goalie Alston McMillan at the other end for the Gorillas. Missing from the player’s list was the very experienced Damon von Einem, learning how to be a ice hockey referee of all things! This meant that the Gorillas would be a bit down on big bodies and experience, and with Rory Moffat on the River Rats team the Gorillas might have to dig deep. Having coached and managed this team’s bench for most of the season I knew that all the kids would be up to the task, as they communicated well, positioned well and backed each other up. Shanni Muller managing the other bench would agree that the improvements of all the kids over the season was nothing more than phenomenal, especially great seeing the younger kids progressing up and mixing it well with the experienced oldest players! So the stage was set for an interesting game, comprising of two 20min periods.
Usually the scoreline would be somewhere like 5 goals in the game or even more, but this one wasn’t to be. Shaking off a not so favourable warmup session Alston set about playing his usual game in goals stopping a lot of shots, with some help from the goal posts, who he would thank! Stoyan at the other end would have to fend off quite a few shots from Gabriel Koudelka, the main goal shooter for the Gorillas. At the half time break the decision was made to keep the goaltenders in the same teams, despite the size advantage to the River Rats. Eventually, Hudson Elze found a way past the Gorillas goaltender Alston McMillan to put the River Rats up by 1 (at least I think it was the 2nd period). The game was this tight that with 11mins to go in the game there was just the one goal scored! Plenty of time for the Gorillas to strike back. Stoyan Shopov had faced a barrage of shots, mainly from Koudelka, in fact about 20 more than Alston at the other end. Unfortunately for the Gorillas the clock wound down, with the River Rats throwing everything defensively at the Gorillas who were sharing the puck around and finding good passes. So the 2022-2023 season went the way of the River Rats, but both teams players can be very very proud of the way this grand final was played out. The only downer was the shoulder injury sustained by Hugo Shopov in a tussle with his River Rats opponent.
Awards were given out at the end of the game, with the player with most goals and assists being Rory Moffat. Best improved award went to Jordan Kutsche, after a stellar year picking up a couple of game MVPs along the way.