Itís been a tough few years for the Sydney Bears, now the western most of the two Australian Ice Hockey League teams in Sydney, but for the first time since 2010 they are a real chance of making the playoffs and competing for the Goodall Cup.
The Bears sit 1 point outside the Top 4, the cut-off for the playoffs, with an even record of 9 wins (1 in overtime) and 9 losses (1 in overtime). They've scored 67 goals through the season to date, the second most of any team (Newcastle have scored 82!) but their defence leaves much to be desired. Only cross town rivals and 2015 flops the Ice Dogs (87) have conceded more goals than the Bears (64).
As it stands, the Newcastle North Stars and Perth Thunder both look to have playoff spots in the bag and itís a four way battle for the remaining two positions, but the Bears are in the box seat to claim one of them.
With only 2 of their remaining 10 matches against teams above them on the ladder, including two matches against the Ice Dogs who are winless in regular time in 2015, there are no excuses for the Bears.
A return to Penrith this season is a good omen for the Bears. They've been jumping to and fro between Sydney Ice Arena and Penrith Ice Palace since 2003 but last time they made the switch back to the Ice Palace they won the Goodall Cup in their first season back (2007). Additionally, they won after finishing 4th that season - a position they're highly likely to finish this year.
Two key players for the Bears resurgence are Joseph Harcharik and Michael Schlamp. A fresh import and a club legend.
Harcharik has jumped seamlessly into the Bears culture after successful stints in Germany and Poland. 17 goals and 15 assists rank him as the 4th highest point scorer in AIHL 2015.
Schlamp, sitting just 3 shy of his 150th AIHL game (all for the Bears franchise) and is contributing more than a point per game for the 4th time in the last 5 seasons.
Have Your Say: Where do the Sydney Bears need to improve most to maximise their shot at a top four finish?
Photo by Rev William Stewart