Newcastle Northstars coach John Kennedy jnr retuned to the rink and blooded a stack of local players at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium on Sunday as the hosts went down 3-2 to the Sydney Ice Dogs in game one of the newly formed Hawkesbury Classic.
Kennedy jnr, who last featured for the Northstars in 2017, was back out in the middle with several Newcastle rookies in what turned out to be a tight encounter decided by a penalty in overtime.
"I put the skates back on and it felt good to be out there," he said.
"My last full season would have been 2016 when we won the championship and I might have played a few games in 2017, so it's been a while."
The likes of Jakob Brooks, Mackenzie Gallagher, Alistair Rye, Connor Schultz and Aston Brooks were all given opportunities for the Northstars.
"It was basically all locals," Kennedy jnr said.
Ice Dogs pair Grant Toulman and Jeremy Vasquez scored a goal each in the opening two periods. Shane Southwood and Liam Manwarring levelled proceedings for Newcastle in the third term.
Kale Costa broke the deadlock with three minutes and 25 seconds remaining.
The Northstars now travel to meet their Sydney rivals at Macquarie Ice Rink the next two Saturdays before rounding out the four-match series at Warners Bay on August 22.
The Hawkesbury Classic was announced on Thursday after coronavirus concerns saw the Australian Ice Hockey League season officially cancelled for 2020.
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