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AWIHL Grand Final: Sydney Sirens 3 defeat Adelaide Rush 0

7 February 2020, by GORDON WITT

The Sydney Sirens have defeated the Adelaide Rush 3-0 to win their second Joan McKowen trophy as AWIHL champions. Tina Girdler (Sydney) and Michelle Coonan (Adelaide) went without rest, backing up their semi-final wins from the previous day with a start in the grand final.

The matchup saw the two best possession teams in the league facing off against each other with very different philosophies. Sydney was by far the highest scoring team, and Adelaide owned the staunchest defense.

during the 1st Semi Final between CBR Brave and Melbourne Mustangs in the 2018 AIHL Final Series at O’Brien Group Arena on 02 February 2020
Photo Credit: Phil Taylor

First Period

Sydney applied pressure on Adelaide immediately after the faceoff, entering the Adelaide zone and setting up shop. Natasha Farrier was able to block a shot at the blueline and raced up the ice in a one-on-one situation, but a good stick from defender Sarah Edney broke up the play before a shot could be made.

Sydney would head to their first powerplay after Tash Farrier was sent to the penalty box for a dubious call of charging. The Sirens would capitalise seconds later. Sharna Godfrey found Sarah Edney in the slot. Coonan did well to save the first shot, but Stephanie Cochrane slid the rebound under Coonan giving Sydney a 1-0 lead at 13:49. It was Sydney’s seventh powerplay goal from eight opportunities over the weekend (87.5% conversion rate).

Adelaide maintained zone pressure following the goal but were left unrewarded for their efforts. The Sirens did well blocking shots and keeping play to the outside. Ayris generated a half-chance from a tight angle that Girdler was equal to. Then their momentum was stalled by another penalty when Candice Mitchell was called for hooking.

The Rush’s box formation on the penalty kill bent but did not break, Coonan stepping up with some key saves to keep it a one goal game. With the penalty killed, Sydney continued to apply pressure but were once again flummoxed by Coonan. Nadine Edney and Kayla Nielsen were the two top scorers in the AWIHL regular season and had an excellent two-on-one opportunity. Edney made a beautiful backhand saucer pass to Nielsen who was stoned by Coonan. Despite jamming at the rebound the puck stayed out of the net.

Two Adelaide penalties in quick succession sent the Sirens to a five-on-three powerplay. Once again, Farrier went to the box on a puzzling call of ‘body-checking’, a play in which she merely appeared to stand her ground. Regardless of protests, the Rush were shorthanded by two players.

With their captain and MVP both in the box, Adelaide were always going to struggle to kill off the penalty. Sydney won the ensuing faceoff and the puck never left the zone. 26 seconds later, Amelia Matheson collected a pass just inside the blueline, took a couple of strides, and blasted a clapper past a screened Coonan’s glove. 2-0 Sydney at 1:46, Matheson with the goal, assists to Ava Calabria and Chloe Walker.

A Nadine Edney cross-checking penalty ended the Sirens’ powerplay, giving fans 4-on-4 hockey before a brief Adelaide powerplay bookended the period break.

Sydney dominated the shot count, due in no small part to the powerplay count being 4-1 in their favour. The Sirens more than doubled up the Rush in shots with 13-6, thus giving them a shot-share of 68%.

Second Period

Adelaide were unable to score on the powerplay to start the period and the game settled into a tightly checking match. Adelaide had a good chance after four minutes of play, crashing the net on a rebound opportunity, but Tina Girdler and desperate defense by Sydney ensured the puck didn’t cross the line.

The Rush would have a five-on-three powerplay of their own just over a minute later as Calabria and Nielsen were sent to the box. Sydney players and supporters were equally puzzled with the call.

Sydney showed their championship mettle by taking the play to Adelaide. Then the 5-on-3 powerplay became a 4-on-3 as Rush forward Sasha Lutz was sent to the box for high-sticking. Both teams defended with desperation, battling for every loose puck.

When Mitchell was called for a tripping call, the Sirens went to the powerplay for the sixth time in the game. Adelaide, however, managed to sustain pressure in the Sydney zone. When they lost possession, Kayla Nielsen’s superb breakout pass put Nadine Edney on a breakaway. The star forward deked to her backhand and beat Coonan, but not the goalpost.

 

After successfully killing the penalty, the Rush would go to the powerplay two more times. Farrier had a great opportunity snuffed out, left unattended at the back post. Sasha Lutz found some space in the slot, but like her team, couldn’t solve the puzzle of putting the puck past Girdler. Despite dominating the shot count in the second period 14-6 (70% shot share), Adelaide still trailed 2-0. The shot share was 51% to Adelaide after 40 minutes of play.

Third Period

The tight checking of the second period carried over into the third, both teams putting the body on the line to prevent scoring chances, exemplified by this shot block by Lizzie Aveson on Nielsen.

It was apparent that it was going to take a spectacular play to add to the scoreboard. Nadine Edney came close when she deked past the defender and found herself with a clear shot, but Coonan did well to get out to the top of the crease, stop the initial shot with her pad before diving on the rebound.

Just over a minute later, Sarah Edney collected the puck in the neutral zone, was forced wide by the Rush defenders, but managed to find a gap with an unbelievable shot from a tight angle. 3-0 Sydney, Edney the scorer, Sharna Godfrey with the assist at 10:54.

Adelaide tried to get back into the game, but two penalties to Venus and Farrier once again had them on their heels, desperately needing to kill off a 5-on-3 powerplay to stay in the game. Michelle Coonan was spectacular down the stretch, keeping her team in the contest with some phenomenal saves.
 

With 14 seconds left on the second penalty, Katherine McOnie went to the box for kneeing, and the game would see brief 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated Rush powerplay. Sasha Lutz created a chance on her own, deking around two Sirens players, but Girdler was in good position to stop the shot and the referee blew the play dead, defusing the danger from the ensuing rebound.

Sydney continued to press, and Coonan had to be sharp to deny a one-timer from the slot with three minutes remaining. Rush chances were limited to rush chances (I make no apologies for this sentence). Farrier saw her shot from the right faceoff circle saved by the mask of Girdler. That would be the final chance for Adelaide, they would not have possession of the puck in the offensive zone for the last minute of the game.

The shot count finished 13-3 (81% shot share) for the period and 32-23 (58% shot share) for the match in Sydney’s favour.

Tina Girdler’s Comments

Tina Girdler was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the game and I am pleased to share her comments.

Two very different games over the weekend, a 22 goal game against Perth, and then a 3-0 game over Adelaide where you limited the Rush to just 23 shots. What adjustments were you able to make as a team between Saturday’s game and the final?

We focused on controlling entries and exits at both ends of the ice, providing support to our puck carriers offensively while defensively stepping up in the neutral zone to reduce scoring chances.

It certainly worked, your team was able to take advantage on special teams with two PP goals and were excellent on the PK. You seemed to get a lot of fan support over the weekend.

Loved the atmosphere in the Icehouse! Sirens fans were amazing – small but mighty in making their presence known and providing us with support both on and off the ice.

What’s next for you? Will you be representing Australia at the worlds?

I’m really excited and honoured to be representing Australia at Worlds this year. We leave next week for training camp in Sweden followed by the tournament itself in Iceland.

Final Thoughts

Sydney played a complete game and deserved the win in this matchup. Their offense has been terrifyingly good all season, but their defensive effort in this match was just as spectacular. It was the Sirens’ first shutout of the season; what great timing to accomplish the feat.

Adelaide have been the story of the season going from last to second in a single season. For connoisseurs of elite defenses, they have been a joy to watch. All season long they bought in to a stifling defensive system that gave them an eye-popping, league-leading, shot share of 63.5%. That means that Adelaide created almost twice as many chances as they allowed. This season was not a result of luck but the result of excellent players playing an effective system.

The skill on display the entire weekend was beautiful to watch, and no doubt, for young female fans, inspiring. After a chance meeting with Melbourne Ice players Jenelle and Georgia Carson following the match, they both declared that women’s hockey was the winner here, and I wholeheartedly agree.

Mark Weber (left) chats with my partner and myself during the finals. Photo Credit: Phil Taylor

If you want to watch a replay, the AWIHL broadcast all of the games via their YouTube channel. Please be sure to subscribe. Thanks for helping them reach their goal of 1,000 subscribers prior to the finals!

Photography credit: Phil Taylor

AWIHL Consolation Final: Melbourne Ice 4 defeat Perth Inferno 3

7 February 2020, by GORDON WITT

The Melbourne Ice have defeated the Perth Inferno 4-3 on home ice to secure their bronze placement for the 2019-20 season. Two rookie netminders got the start with Sasha King and Makayla Peers between the pipes for Perth and Melbourne respectively.

First Period

Melbourne started well early, an end to end rush by defender Megan Eady drawing a hooking penalty from Michelle Clark-Crumpton just 25 seconds into the match. This was a theme for the first period, four penalties were called, an Inferno player finding themselves in the penalty box in each instance.

Melbourne spent swathes of time in the offensive zone; King had to be superb in net to keep it a scoreless contest.

Following one sequence where King was forced into making three saves in quick succession, Perth managed to skate the puck out and dump it into the Melbourne zone. The forechecking Inferno forwards pressured the Ice and created a turnover, Nora Maclaine picking off the pass in the middle of the ice above the circles, and was able to skate in on Peers before ripping a shot from between the hash marks top-corner glove-side. The Inferno made their first shot of the game count, 1-0 Perth at 11:34.

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The goal went straight to the Inferno legs, and Perth were able to generate some offensive zone time, Maclaine toe-dragging multiple players in succession. Another two penalties called on the Inferno broke up their momentum and the rest of the period was played in the Inferno end of the rink. However, King perpetually frustrated the Ice with timely saves, and Lesleigh Bower broke up multiple rushes from Ice superstar import Christina Julien.

At the end of the period, Melbourne generated 12 shots (66.7% shot share), and Perth put 6 shots on net (33.3% shot share). Despite being outshot, in large part due to having to kill off four penalties, the Inferno led the Ice 1-0 after 20 minutes of play.

Second Period

The second period would remain penalty free until the final minute and the game benefitted as a result of the refs putting the whistles away. Sasha King showed off her athleticism, making the splits to keep out a one-timer opportunity. She appeared to be stuck in position, requiring the assistance of a team mate to help her out. I would require an ambulance and a team of physiotherapists if my body was similarly contorted for any length of time.

Melbourne continued to pile on the pressure and finally found an equaliser. Ashlie Aparicio’s shot from the slot generated a rebound which Christina Julien collected and deposited in one smooth motion under King’s glove and to the back of the net. 1-1, Julien with the goal, Aparicio with the lone assist on the play.

Peers had to be spectacular to deny Courtney Moulton. Maclaine’s vision and breakout pass sent Moulton in all alone on Peers. As a spectator, I assumed the puck rolled off Moulton’s stick when she went to the backhand. However, now that I have seen the replay, Peers somehow manages to block the shot with her stick.

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Just two minutes later and Melbourne had their first lead of the match. Niamh Gallacher scoring her first ever goal in the AWIHL, and what a time to do it. Shona Green found her all alone at the back door with a wonderful cross-crease pass. Gallacher’s second swipe lifted the puck over the lunging King and into the net. 2-1 Ice, Gallacher with the goal with assists to Green and Marnie Pullin.

 

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Free-flowing hockey followed with both teams generating chances on two-on-one opportunities. Eady once again carried the puck from her own end and used her blazing speed to generate an unimpeded shot on King, but King was equal to the shot. Off the ensuing faceoff in the Inferno’s end, Inferno forward Nikki Sharp stole the puck off the Ice defender at the blueline and skated in on Peers on a two-on-one with Elizabeth Scala. With the Ice defender taking away the passing option, Sharp didn’t have a lot of net to shoot at. However, the sharp-shooting Sharp found a tiny gap above Peers’ blocker-side shoulder and parity was restored at 2-2, unassisted at 6:09.

 

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Perth would not have much time to enjoy the tying goal, just 1:47 later Marnie Pullin restored Melbourne’s lead. The young forward picked up a loose puck just inside the blueline and was able to skate in alone on King before ripping a shot glove side and into the back of the net. 3-2 Melbourne at 4:22 unassisted.

 

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Perth finished the period on their first powerplay of the game, but Peers ensured the Ice exited with the lead, making some solid saves as time expired. Shots were a lot closer in the second frame, Melbourne with 13 shots and Perth with 12. Melbourne had the advantage of shot-share with 52% for the period and 58% for the match.

Third Period

Perth were unable to capitalise on their punctuated powerplay and found themselves having to absorb Melbourne pressure immediately afterwards.

Melbourne doubled their lead after spending what seemed like an aeon in the Inferno zone. The Ice were able to outnumber the Inferno defenders down low and Aparicio had the time and space to take two whacks at Julien’s centering pass before popping it past a sprawling King. 4-2 at 17:10, Aparicio from Julien.

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Melbourne pushed for a fifth goal immediately afterwards, thwarted in their attempts first by King, and secondly by the referees. Like the first period, four penalties would be called in the third, but in a seemingly balancing move all four penalties would be called against Ice players.

A five-on-three Inferno powerplay led to a fantastic chance for … the Ice. After a blocked shot in the Ice end of the rink, Georgia Moore was left with 50 metres of clear ice between her and King. Skating in alone she went to the forehand but King did well to track her movements and make the save while falling backwards to the ice, squeezing the puck between her arm and body.

 

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Perth were unable to generate anything other than perimeter chances on their powerplays, the disciplined Melbourne defense breaking up anything in the interior. Peers was largely able to corral chances without allowing rebounds, when she did allow a rebound, the Ice defense was on hand to clear the danger and prevent secondary opportunities.

King found herself called into action to stop another breakaway attempt, this time from Ashlie Aparicio. The Ice winger tried to open up the five-hole by cutting across the goal, but King was once again able to track the puck well and make the save.

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After a boarding call on Marnie Pullin, Perth were once again on the powerplay. But once again, Melbourne would generate grade-A scoring chances on the penalty kill. Aparicio and Julien created a two-on-one, Julien set up Aparicio for the one-timer which King saved, along with Julien’s follow up shovel backhand attempt. King was determined to keep the Inferno in the contest.

 

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Shortly afterwards, Perth finally generated a shot from the interior on the powerplay. Nora Maclaine again found herself with the puck between the hash marks, and again went top-shelf glove-side on Peers. A beautiful bar-down shot at 2:13 on the powerplay assisted by Scala and Moulton. Ah Maclaine, you’ve done it again.

 

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Perth were able to generate another two-on-one opportunity, but were thwarted by both Peers and the post. With a minute remaining the Ice were happy to play keep-away with the puck to frustrate Perth’s comeback attempts.

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Despite having to kill off four penalties, Melbourne dominated the shot-count in the third period 18-10. That gave them a 64% shot share for the period, and 61% for the game.

Final Thoughts

Both teams will no doubt be encouraged by the performance of their rookie goaltenders this season. Peers was excellent for Melbourne and King kept the Inferno in this one and very nearly stole the result for her team. In the end the teams finished the postseason in the same position as the regular season, third for Melbourne, and fourth for Perth.

This was not a game in which the teams played for pride as if the losing team was undeserving of being proud of their accomplishments this season. All five teams in the competition fought valiantly, giving both partisan and neutral fans plenty to cheer for throughout the season.

The skill on display the entire weekend was beautiful to watch, and no doubt, for young female fans, inspiring. After a chance meeting with Melbourne Ice players Jenelle and Georgia Carson following the match, they both declared that women’s hockey was the winner here, and I wholeheartedly agree.

If you want to watch a replay, the AWIHL broadcast all of the games via their YouTube channel. Please be sure to subscribe. Thanks for helping them reach their goal of 1,000 subscribers prior to the finals!

A beautiful game: the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League finals

By Kirby Fenwick at sirensport.com.au 

The 2020 Champions and Gold medalists: the Sydney Sirens. Photo: Phil Taylor

It’s a Sunday afternoon in February, one of the hottest months of the year in the driest inhabited continent on earth. And I’m shivering inside O’Brien Icehouse. Ahead of me is the bronze medal and the gold medal games of the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League. Around me are hundreds of fans, many kitted out in hockey jerseys, some, incredulously, wearing shorts. 

A few weeks earlier, while on the phone to Mark Weber, the administrative assistant of Ice Hockey Australia’s women’s council and the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League (AWIHL), we’d discussed the upcoming finals at the Icehouse, the premier facility in Australia by the way. Mark had told me that I should be sure to rug up for my first ever ice hockey experience. Have you got a ski jacket, he asked me. I laughed, no I said, but I’ll be fine. I’ve played footy, a winter sport, in freezing temperatures and driving rain. I’ve got this. I really didn’t. 

Up until this point, my exposure to ice hockey has been, well, limited. I’ve seen the Mighty Ducks (Quack! Quack! Quack!). I follow Gritty on instagram, the chaotic good mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers, an ice hockey team that plays in the National Hockey League. And my friend Hayley, who is a big ice hockey fan, regularly posts on social media about games and I often like her posts. But, ever the curious cat, when the opportunity came to actually go see some ice hockey, and not just any ice hockey but the finals of the premier women’s ice hockey competition in the country, I jumped at it. And that’s how I found myself at O’Brien Icehouse on a Sunday afternoon and it’s also how I discovered that ice hockey is very very cool. It’s also one of the fastest and most dynamic sports I’ve ever watched. 

Perth Inferno and Melbourne Ice battle it out in the bronze medal game. Photo: Phil Taylor.

First up on the schedule for the afternoon is the bronze medal game between Perth Inferno and Melbourne Ice. It’s an exciting moment for the Inferno who are playing only their second season in the AWIHL. For the Ice, it must be somewhat bittersweet given they’ve won the Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy (the award given to the winners of the gold medal game) in six of the last seven seasons. On the ice, the noise of hockey sticks hitting the puck reverberates around the arena. It’s complemented by the sound of skates on fresh ice and the voices of the women as they call to each other. I’m struck but how fast the game is, how quickly the players skate from one end of the sixty metre rink to the other, and how quickly they stop. I think about my own experiences on the rink, tentative like a baby giraffe learning to walk. Am I impressed? Slightly intimated? Do I want to go buy some ice skates? All the above. 

Women’s ice hockey has a surprisingly long history in Australia. The first recorded game in Australia was played at the Melbourne Glaciarium on August 31 in 1908. It was a one-off game, played in honour of a visiting American fleet according to ice hockey historian Ross Carpenter who details the early days of women’s ice hockey at Legends of Australian Ice. The first national women’s ice hockey competition launched in 1922, with state teams playing for the Gower Cup right through until the 1930s. 

However, like most women’s sports, the history of ice hockey is one that stops and starts. After the cessation of the Gower Cup, in part due to the Depression, ice hockey wouldn’t seriously reappear on the Australian sporting landscape until decades later. By the 1980s, talks of a national women’s ice hockey league were happening but nothing eventuated. It wasn’t until a successful showcase series in 2006 and 2007 that the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League was officially formed. Today, some twelve years later, the competition runs from October through to February and is contested by five teams: Melbourne Ice, Sydney Sirens, Adelaide Rush, Perth Inferno and Brisbane Goannas. 

In only their second season, Perth Inferno are in the bronze medal game. Photo: Phil Taylor

While Melbourne and Perth battle it out on the rink, I chat with Melissa Rulli, a foundation player for the AWIHL, and the league’s commissioner. I ask her about her ice hockey origin story and she tells me about a pair of roller blades and a rink in Sydney. 

‘I wanted to try ice skating and I just picked it up really really quickly because I had the basics from rollerblading. And then I was always bugging my parents to take me back to the rink. And when I went back, I saw an ice hockey match that was on and I just fell in love. I was like, “Oh my god, I want to do that”,’ she said. 

And do that she did. Melissa played for the Sydney Sirens in the AWIHL, but she also represented Australia eight times, including playing in the historic 2000 team, the first Australian women’s team to make it to the World Championships. Today, she sees her role as commissioner as much more than just governing the day-to-day operation of the league. 

‘[We’re] out there trying to grow the league as well and create more opportunities for ice hockey to be recognised as a sport in Australia that’s definitely on the rise.’

‘I think most sporting federations understand now that growth in their membership lies in women’s programs. So for us it’s to continue to build participation and to get young kids in and making sure that this league is really firing so we’re really giving them something to challenge them to get to. So it’s really important that this league is a strong league. And that it’s a high performance league,’ she said. 

Ice hockey is so much more than the brutish reputation it has. Photo: Phil Taylor

In a story that’s familiar to many involved in women’s sport, the women who play in the AWIHL must pay around $2000 each a year just to play. That’s on top of gear—skates and hockey sticks and some serious protective equipment—that costs about the same. It’s something Melissa says the league is very conscious of and something they want to change. 

‘We would really like to get to a point where the players here don’t pay a cent… so we can have a league where the players only have to worry about being fit, being ready and playing.’

On the rink, it’s the final minutes of the third period in the bronze game and Melbourne Ice lead. You can feel the tension as the Inferno tries desperately to get a goal. A level score means, well, I’m not really sure because I don’t know the rules but you can’t have a draw in a final, so a goal would give them a shot at least. The announcer pops up telling us there’s a minute to go but the giant red clock in the corner is really all the explanation we need. And it’s racing towards zero seemingly faster than is possible. I’m cheering for the Inferno if only to see what will happen (also because I love an underdog) but the red clock is zero and the siren sounds. Melbourne Ice have triumphed and are the bronze medalists for the 2020 season.   

Adelaide Rush and the Sydney Sirens do battle in the gold medal game. Photo: Phil Taylor

The AWIHL is working hard to grow their sport and their fanbase. For the past two seasons, they’ve streamed every game online. This season, they reached 1000 subscribers on their channel. The games are free to watch for anyone in the world. Melissa says this is an important part of the league’s strategy for growth because eyes on the games means sponsors. 

‘We’ve really seen that, we’ve seen that as we’ve started to get that engagement on social media, as we’re starting to get a bigger fan base at games, we’re starting to see more sponsors come to us and ask how they can get involved which is fantastic,’ she said. 

As the gold medal game gets underway, the crowd seems to get louder. Cheer squads for Adelaide Rush and the Sydney Sirens have set themselves up at a distance from each other and they’re vocal in their support of their players and in their disdain for the umpires. One Siren supporter wears a hat with an electronic sign that he has set to say ‘Go Sirens!!!!’. It’s exactly the kind of thing a diehard fan would do and it makes me smile. On the ice, the game is tense! It feels far more aggressive than the previous game which, given it’s the gold medal game, probably makes sense. The hits seem harder, the steals more sneaky and the goalies are put under plenty of pressure deflecting attempt after attempt at both ends. 

It’s tense in the gold medal game between Adelaide Rush and the Sydney Sirens.
Photo: Phil Taylor

Knowing how much the women in the AWIHL put in to play, how hard they, and people like Mark and Melissa have worked to build the competition, adds another dimension to sitting in the stands. Like my experience with most other women’s sports I’ve watched, you can feel the passion, the determination, the dedication. It spins off the players every time they stretch out their stick to steal the puck, every time they crash up against the glass, every time they celebrate a hard-fought goal. 

I ask Melissa what she loves about the sport and she talks about the perception of ice hockey being a brutish sport and how that perception hides the skill and deftness of the players. 

‘It’s the fastest team sport in the world. But it actually [requires] quite a lot of finesse. So, you have to be good at skating, but you also have a stick, so you have to be good at controlling a puck. So it’s actually quite a tricky game. There’s a lot going on. I like to think of it sometimes as a really fast game of chess; there’s a lot of strategy involved.’

‘It’s quite a beautiful game,’ she says. 

A tough sport? Absolutely. But it’s a beautiful one, too. Photo: Phil Taylor

Unlike the bronze game, the Sirens seem to have the edge over the Rush. And when the siren sounds at the end of the third period it’s the Sydney-siders who are victorious and the new 2020 champions. By the end of the game between Adelaide and Sydney, I can see what Melissa means about strategy. Far from simply smacking the puck around, the players move and position themselves on the rink with clear intent. They drag their opponents out from goal, they hit the puck at the wall deliberately, knowing it will spin around the perimeter of the rink. But I can see what she means about beautiful too. The sight of a player racing down the rink, bending their body to gain more speed, all the while controlling a small round chunk of rubber on a sheet of ice. There is something beautiful about that. 

It’s fair to say I walked into the O’Brien Icehouse in Sunday afternoon pretty clueless about ice hockey. And, it’s fair to say, I walked out of the O’Brien Icehouse only slightly less clueless. What are the rules? Well, I can’t really tell you but I am a fan of the penalty box. Here’s what I can tell you. Not knowing anything about a sport shouldn’t be a barrier to going along and cheering from the sidelines. Or even pulling on skates or boots and whatever other kind of specialised shoe your sport of choice requires. Sitting, and shivering, in the stands on Sunday I understood why so many fans braved the 16 degree temperatures. I understood why the women on the rink paid to play. I understood why so many volunteers gave up their time to help this league grow and prosper. Ice hockey is all the things Melissa said it was. It’s a game of strategy. It’s a tricky game, a fast game. It’s a beautiful game. 

The future looks bright for women’s ice hockey in Australia. Photo: Phil Taylor

Women’s ice hockey in Australia may not have the profile of other sports—yet. It may face challenges that other sports don’t. There are only 23 ice rinks in Australia, I couldn’t even imagine how many ovals or netball courts there are. It’s unlikely the results of Sunday’s finals will make it to mainstream media. It may not be as embedded in the cultural narrative as cricket or Aussie rules. But with steady growth in numbers, a committed fan base and administration filled with people like Mark and Melissa that understand and, more importantly, that love the game, the future of ice hockey is looking bright. 

Kirby Fenwick is a fan first and a writer, editor and audio producer second. She is the creator of the award-winning audio documentary, The First Friday in February and produces the regular segment, Voices From the Stands for Triple R’s Kick Like A Girl. You can find her on twitter @kirbykirbybee

Bronze medal game: Melbourne Ice d. Perth Inferno

Link to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtVOdH64UZM

Gold medal game: Sydney Siren d. Adelaide Rush

Link to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sL6eP5cdRM

The original article and more can be read here.

2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18s World Championship Div II, Group B Team

IHA would like to congratulate the following players and staff who will be representing Australia at the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18s World Championship Div II, Group B in Sofia, Bulgaria from the 23-29th March 2020.

This game was recently relocated from Tianjin, China to Bulgaria.

1. Anthony Njirich D (WA)
2. Arthur Wang D (NSW)
3. Ethan Hawes D (NSW)
4. Jacob Laver D (VIC)
5. Luke Doyle D (WA)
6. Mathieu Vaillancourt D (WA)
7. Patrick Sucher D (WA)
8. Arum Rapchuk F (QLD)
9. Ben Handberg F (SA)
10. Connor Schultz F (NSW)
11. Cooper Metcalf F (VIC)
12. Dmitri Kuleshov F (NSW)
13. Easton Robitaille F (QLD)
14. Justin Dixon F (VIC)
15. Kale Costa F (NSW)
16. Liam McAuley F (WA)
17. Maxim Lyashenko F (WA)
18. Mitchell Choi F (NSW)
19. Nicholas Doornbos F (ACT)
20. Noah Maley F (SA)
21. Dillon Dewar G (WA)
22. Jeremy Friedrich G (SA)

Staff:
Head Coach – Dave Ferrari
Assistant Coaches – Marc Vaillancourt & Dave Costa
Team Leader – Miranda Ransome
Team Manager – Ruth Brooks

 

AWIHL Semi-Final 2: Adelaide Rush 4 defeat Melbourne Ice 2

2 February 2020, by GORDON WITT

The Adelaide Rush will be playing for the championship after a stunning 4-2 win over the Melbourne Ice. Although Adelaide finished ahead of Melbourne in the regular season standings, the Ice entered the matchup having beaten the Rush twice over the final weekend of the season.

Adelaide enjoyed a large amount of crowd support that rivalled even that of the home team, due in no small part to many neutrals choosing to lend their support to the visitors. In our preview we mentioned that this game could be the lowest scoring of the playoffs if regular season trends continued. After the result from the Sydney Sirens vs Perth Inferno game, we are currently two-for-two.

First Period

The two best defences in the league didn’t give each other much room early on, but it was Ice captain Christina Julien who generated the first grade-A scoring chance. The star centre skated to the hash marks and fired a wrister on net. Goaltender Michelle Coonan stopped both the initial shot and the subsequent rebound to keep scores level.

 

The physical play from the two regular season games continued in this game, with both teams trading big hits, none bigger than this crunching check by Ice defender Georgia Moore on the Rush’s Elizabeth Aveson.

Both teams did well limiting shots to the perimeter and breaking up the cycle. It would take over 13 minutes before the game saw it’s first goal and it was worth the wait. Rylie Padjen broke up a Rush pass in the neutral zone, carried it towards the left faceoff circle, and wired a wrister above Coonan’s blocker and into the back of the net. 1-0 Adelaide, unassisted at 6:24.

 

Melbourne had the opportunity to double their advantage towards the end of the period with a pair of powerplays, but were thwarted by both Coonan and the Rush’s stellar defending.

 

The period finished with Melbourne well in control of the shots, leading Adelaide 10-3 in the category; a shot-share of 76.9%.

Second Period

Melbourne continued to pile on the pressure in the middle frame, but Coonan ensured the game didn’t get out of hand, showing off the leather with this fine save off a Sarah Dash attempt from a tight angle.

 

However, just a minute later, Christina Julien took matters into her own hands, receiving a neutral zone pass, and then using her blistering speed to split the defenders and go in all alone on Coonan. This time she would not be denied, cutting across the net before going backhand roof. 2-0 Melbourne at 17:47 with assists to Ashley Aparicio and Georgia Moore.

 

Shortly after the goal the Ice went to the powerplay once again but were thwarted by the Rush’s stifling defense. After killing off the penalty Adelaide’s Sasha Lutz won an offensive zone faceoff, Tash Farrier fired an awkward shot on net that Jenelle Carson could only block, and Lutz collected the rebound between the hash-marks and fired it stick side into the net. Melbourne’s lead was halved, 2-1 at 14:47 of the second.

 

Adelaide would send Melbourne to the powerplay twice more in the period, and although Melbourne had excellent zone time on each, Adelaide maintained a disciplined box-formation to keep chances to the outside. Sasha Lutz brought the Rush fans to their feet late in a penalty kill when she decided to go through Nicole Jones rather than around her.

 

The temperature of the game continued to rise with extracurricular activities after whistles. Neither team was backing down in this confrontation.

 

After Melbourne took a pair of penalties late, the period would end, punctuating a Rush 5-on-3 powerplay. The shots were still in Melbourne’s favour 15-11 for the period (57.7% shot share), and 25-14 for the game (64.1% shot share).

Third Period

Although Adelaide failed to convert with the two woman-advantage, Melbourne were tiring. An equaliser seemed inevitable. At 16:05 Adelaide’s dynamic duo of Farrier and Lutz connected again. Farrier cycled the puck to Lutz in the corner below the goal line, and Lutz returned the pass to Farrier at the right-faceoff dot where she collected and fired the puck in one smooth motion far-side past the stick of Carson.

 

Melbourne would go to the powerplay for the seventh time in the game under a minute later, but again would be frustrated in their attempts to regain the lead.

Slowly, but surely, Adelaide started to dominate possession of the puck, spending swathes of time swarming the offensive zone. Jenelle Carson had to be excellent on several occasions to maintain the deadlock.

 

When both Rylie Padjen (hooking) and Megan Eady (cross-checking) took penalties within 34 seconds of each other (at 7:40 and 7:06 respectively), Adelaide had a 5-on-3 powerplay for the second time in the game. The contest saw it’s first powerplay goal at 6:31, Sasha Lutz banging home a Tash Farrier rebound. The secondary assist was credited to Natalie Ayris.

Melbourne would take yet another penalty at 3:39. Although Adelaide controlled the puck in the zone, they could not add to their advantage, seemingly content to allow time to expire.

Then, with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker, the AWIHL saw an empty net goal for the first time this season as Adelaide iced the game. Farrier and Lutz were again involved, Lutz with the diving assist, Farrier with the goal from the Mustangs logo behind centre-ice. 4-2 Adelaide at 0:22.

Looking Ahead

Melbourne will face the Perth Inferno in the consolation match today at 3:00pm. Both teams matched up against each other well in a back-to-back set in Perth. The stifling Melbourne defense will face a dynamic Perth offense.

With their defeat of the reigning champion Melbourne Ice, Adelaide will be looking to win a seventh championship when they face the Sydney Sirens. It would be the first title for Adelaide since 2012 when they played as the Adelaide Adrenaline, and would tie Melbourne with the most championships in AWIHL history. Sydney will be looking to win their second championship, and first since 2017. The final will see the league’s best offense (Sydney) matched up against the league’s best defense (Adelaide); it will be intriguing to see which philosophy wins out on this occasion.

Fans can buy tickets to the bronze medal game and championship game from finals.awihllive.com. The tickets are very reasonably priced and it’s a great way to watch the greatest live sport on earth, escape the capricious Melbourne weather, and spend a Sunday afternoon in a family-friendly environment.

If you can’t get to Docklands to watch the games, the AWIHL are broadcasting the games via their YouTube channel. Please be sure to subscribe.

Photography credit: tmksnapshots