Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nicholls true to form in Adelaide

Former Brahmas forward makes an impact in his first start down under

Dan Nicholls didn't really know what to expect when he stepped off the plane at the Adelaide International Airport but the 24-year-old native of Whitby, Ontario was sure of one thing - he wanted to get on the ice as soon as possible.

Sidelined by a shoulder injury that's kept him from playing since March 25th, Nicholls missed out on the Brahmas' post-season run and returned home to continue his rehabilitation before preparing for his trip down under.

Nicholls arrived just hours before Saturday's game against the reigning AIHL champion Melbourne Ice, the first of a two-game weekend series. Adelaide won three out of four games against the Ice last season including both home games, but were eliminated by Melbourne on the road in the post-season Semi Final last September.

Nicholls was greeted by a representative of the team and after a 10 minute drive, got his first look at his new home ice, Ice ArenA Adelaide, a 1500-seat venue opened in 1981. Coach Ryan O'Handley opted not to play Nicholls on Saturday, giving him instead, a chance to rest from the nearly 21 hour flight from Toronto and the opportunity to watch his first Australian Ice Hockey League contest.

Not unlike his experience in the Central Hockey League, Nicholls witnessed a  tough and physical encounter that also saw sixteen penalties handed out.

The Adrenaline enjoyed a two-goal advantage at the end of both the first and second periods but Melbourne kept fighting back and scored the first two goals early in the final frame to tie the game 4-4. The Adrenaline scored the next two, once again giving themselves that two-goal buffer.

With the game intensifying, the Adelaide gave away two soft penalties giving Melbourne a two-man advantage with just under three minutes left to play. While Melbourne did find the back of the net, Adelaide held the Ice out for the remaining minute and a half to secure the 6-5 win.

On Sunday, Nicholls was ready to go and suited up for the first time in an Adrenaline sweater, number 14. The former Brahmas wrecking ball performed exceptionally well, producing a couple of hits that literally rocked the IceArenA. 

Unfortunately, the Adrenaline’s penalties were costly - Melbourne’s two regulation goals were scored during power plays in the second period. The team was also rocked midway through the frame, when Josef Rezek took what appeared to be an elbow to the head at center ice. Rezek was eventually assisted from the ice after losing consciousness and suffering some dizziness but the tough Czech was able to return to the game in the third period and assisted on Dan Nicholls' equalizing goal, his first in the AIHL.

The contest went into overtime but there was no resolution and Melbourne took the win in a shootout. 

Despite the 2-3 loss, Adelaide took four out of a possible six points and in their first three games remain undefeated in regulation to sit in third place in the AIHL's Eastern Conference.

The Adrenaline will play a two-game road series against the Gold Coast Blue Tongues this coming weekend.

Photo Credit: Frank Kutsche

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