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IHA National Championships 2020

IHA are pleased to announce the dates and locations for the IHA National Championships 2020:

Women’s Tournament (New)
27th – 30th May 2020
Cockburn Ice Arena, WA

Syd Tange Tournament
8th – 11th July 2020
Cockburn Ice Arena, WA

Phil Ginsberg Tournament
6th – 9th August 2020
Thebarton Ice Arena, SA

Kurt DeFris Tournament
20th – 23rd August
Hunter Ice Skating Stadium, NSW

Jim Brown
15th – 18th October
O’Brien Ice Arena, VIC

 

Australian National Junior Team – Tour of Sofia, Bulgaria

It seems so long ago, but just over a month ago the Australian National Junior team fell just short in Sofia, Bulgaria losing in the Gold Medal game for the second year in a row.

The Aussies started the tournament against South Africa. The team didn’t start the game with the same intensity as their training camp in Liberec, Czech Republic. The Aussies were down 1-0 at the end of the first period having only taken six shots on the South African net. During the ice-cut the coaches had some words to say in the dressing room and as a result the boys stepped up outshooting the South Africans 16-0 in the second period and scoring 5 unanswered goals to take a 5-1 lead. The third period was an even affair with both teams tying for shots (8-8) and the Aussies would finish with one more goal in the third to win that period and win the game 6-1.

Goal Scorers:
1. Connor Lee from Jake Riley
2. Zach Gumm
3. Jake Riley from Connor Lee
4. James Barton from Andrew Chen & Ben Handberg
5. Alexander Wardlaw from Thomas Kiliwnik & Kenshin Hayashi
6. Alexander Wardlaw from Thomas Kiliwnik & Andrew Chen
GAME MVP: Jack Ransome

Video: https://youtu.be/2c4QUhOQONw

The next day it was Australia vs Chinese Taipei. The team recovered fine with no injuries against South Africa. This game was a lot tighter than the overall score line suggested. Chinese Taipei whilst small were quick and they took it to the Aussies. Their goal tender faced an onslaught the whole game facing 37 shots for five goals. Similar to the first game the Aussies did most of the damage in the second period, this time it was four unanswered goals from 14 shots. In the third period the Aussies took their foot of the gas and Taipei outshot the team 9 to 6 and managed to keep us to the lone goal in the third. Aussie veteran goalie Seb Woodlands earning the shutout.

Goal Scorers:
1. Yannic Lodge from Alexander Wardlaw
2. Connor Lee from Yannic Lodge & Alexander Wardlaw
3. Jack Ransome from Ben Handberg & Nathaniel Benson
4. Alexander Wardlaw from Yannic Lodge & Kenshin Hayashi
5. Jake Riley from James Barton & James Urweiss
GAME MVP: Seb Woodlands

Video: https://youtu.be/kpaS9lr9B3Q

A day off and the team headed up the mountain for some fun in the sun snow. After a 40-minute gondola ride to the top of the mountain the boys were able to stretch their legs and roll around in the snow. It was a good chance to get out of the hotel and throw some snowballs at each other.

Day four and it was the top of the round clash versus a strong team from Turkey. Turkey has defeated South Africa 6-1 (same score line as us) and defeated Chinese Taipei 3-0. The Aussies started poorly; it was becoming evident that we were a slow starting team that did most of the damage in the second period. The first period we were outshot 12 to 8 and the Turks were on the board first on the power play.

It was back to the dressing room and some more positive reinforcement to reenergise the team and they came out in the second period scoring 3 goals, one even strength, one power play and one short-handed. AGAIN the third period the boys seem to take their foot off the gas and allowed Turkey to steal a goal 3:29 into the third period however the Aussies would shut it down and steal the win in a fast game 3-2.

Goal Scorers:
1. Jake Riley from Zach Gumm
2. Connor Lee from Thomas Kiliwnik & Nathaniel Benson
3. Alexander Wardlaw
GAME MVP: Arthur Wang

Video: https://youtu.be/Os8nMZwSUGA

Wahoo, the Aussies finish top of Pool B and move into the Semi Finals and place the second seed of pool A who would later become Mexico. The boys in white knew they had their work cut out for them as Mexico was the team that dropped from Division II to Division III and was looking to move up. After another day off, it gave the team a chance to study more video of their opponents and time for some more team bonding. Connor Lee had been struck down by gastro and would never really recover for the rest of the tournament. Connor dug deep to play but his energy levels took a huge toll on his body and his speed was sacrificed.

The semi-final was here and what a game it was. Mexico came out flying, scoring 2:37 into the game and then again at the 7-minute mark to take a 2-0 lead. Perhaps this was the spark the Aussies needed who would rally for three goals to finish off the period and outshoot the Mexicans 9 to 3 and up 3-2 on the scoreboard.

Aussie goalie Seb Woodlands knew he had to be better allowing 2 goals on 3 shots and the second period would see the tables turn. The Mexicans would outshoot the Aussies 11 to 6 but it was the Australian Captain Kenshin Hayashi that would do all the damage scoring three goals in the second period to make four in total.

The third period saw the Australians regain the shot count outshooting the Mexicans 9 to 6 and the Aussies weren’t done, already up 6-2 the team kept rolling scoring another two goals to take an 8-2 lead. Some sloppy play with four and half minutes remaining saw two Aussies head to the box for some 2-minute minor penalties and gifted the Mexicans a late power play goal. The semi-final would finish 8-3 to the Australian team and a medal in the 2020 Division III World Championships.

Goal Scorers:
1. Zach Gumm from Jake Riley & Dylan Sables
2. Ben Handberg from Arthur Wang & Nathaniel Benson
3. Kenshin Hayashi from Yannic Lodge
4. Kenshin Hayashi from Yannic Lodge
5. Kenshin Hayashi from Jake Riley & Will Clifford
6. Kenshin Hayashi from Alexander Wardlaw & Thomas Kiliwnik
7. Julian Fodor from James Barton & Jack Ransome
8. Ben Handberg from Zach Gumm & Dylan Sables
GAME MVP: Kenshin Hayashi

Video: https://youtu.be/ooLYc_K26I8

The gold medal game was here, and the team had to face a quick, big and touch Iceland team. Iceland had followed the same path disposing of every team in their wake. The went through undefeated in Pool A defeating Bulgaria (4-3), New Zealand (10-1), Mexico (5-2) and in their respective semi-final defeated Turkey 5-2.

They were fast and disciplined but we had a game plan that would counter act this play. Unfortunately, it didn’t work to plan and they outshot us 26-16. The game started off according to plan, the players were buying into the system, clearing the puck out of the quickly however a small error by the Aussie defence saw Iceland score with 1:52 remaining in the first period to take a 1-0 lead into the break.

History was on our side; we knew we were a second period team. 2:07 into the second period we were gifted with a power play as Iceland served a two-minute minor for ‘too many players’ on the ice. 40 seconds later the Aussies were left shaking their head when Iceland shifted the momentum back in their favour as they scored a short-handed goal through Axel Orongan (highest point scorer) and easily the fastest guy in the tournament. This broke the Aussies back and we were never able to recover from this. Orongan would then score on the power play 6:20 remaining in the second period and the team was down 3-0 going into the third period.

The coaches rallied behind the players, tried to get inside their heads and shift the momentum our way however the first whistle of the third period (17 seconds in) Iceland scored and the team could feel the game slipping out of reach. Three minutes later Jack Ransome took some of the load off the top six forwards and scored his second goal of the tournament to give the Aussies some hope however we could never recover, and Iceland was awarded the Gold Medal and promotion to division II.

Goal Scorers:
1. Jack Ransome from James Barton & Thomas Kiliwnik
GAME MVP: Yannic Lodge

Video: https://youtu.be/5osxu4QTOvI

Jake Riley was named Australian best player of the tournament.

Australian Goalie Seb Woodlands was named best goalie of the tournament.

Final Standings:
Gold – Iceland
Silver – Australia
Bronze – Turkey

 

Written by Jason Kvisle (WM20s Assistant Coach) 

IIHF Women’s World Championship: Australia 6 defeats Iceland 1

24 February 2020, by GORDON WITT

 

 

 

 

Australia has defeated Iceland 6-1 to begin their world championship campaign on a winning note. Michelle Clark-Crumpton and Shona Green each found the net twice, Natalie Ayris recorded a goal and two assists, and Tess Reynolds also found the back of the net. Goaltender Olivia Last saved 22 of the 23 shots she faced to record the win.

First Period

Australia pressured Iceland from the outset, utilising an effective forecheck to maintain offensive zone time. Although they failed to convert on an early powerplay, their hard work paid off after just 3:45. Natalie Ayris passed the puck from Gretzky’s office to Tash Farrier, her shot generated a rebound, which Michelle Clark-Crumpton deposited past Karitas Halldorsdottir and into the net.

3:45 1-0 Australia – Michelle Clark-Crumpton

ASSISTS: TASH FARRIER, NATALIE AYRIS

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Michelle Clark-Crumpton (Perth Inferno) opens the game for @icehockeyaus!

Australia continued to push for an insurance marker, forcing Iceland to take penalties for holding the stick at 7:54, and holding an opponent at 11:59. Iceland would kill off the former powerplay but not the latter. Kjartansdottir was in the box for just 25 seconds before Shona Green doubled the lead. Iceland attempted to clear the puck but it went only as far as Georgia Moore. Halldorsdottir could only parry her shot from just inside the blueline, which Green backhanded over her pad and into the net.

12:24 2-0 Australia – Shona Green

ASSIST: GEORGIA MOORE

Less than two minutes later Iceland were digging the puck out of their own net yet again. This time an aggressive forecheck allowed Eiland Kenyon to generate a turnover, the puck found Tess Reynolds in the slot and the doctor went top shelf glove-side to make it 3-0.

14:13 3-0 Australia – Tess Reynolds

ASSIST: EILAND KENYON

Iceland got their first powerplay of the period when Clark-Crumpton went to the box for holding but Iceland were unable to convert with the numerical advantage. Clark-Crumpton exited the box, stayed on the ice and was rewarded 44 seconds later with her second goal of the contest. A shot by Ayris from the point led to a rebound to the right faceoff circle which Natalie Ayris collected and sent a beautiful cross-crease pass for Clark-Crumpton to one-time into the net past a diving Halldorsdottir.

19:25 4-0 Australia – Michelle Clark-Crumpton (2)

ASSISTS: TASH FARRIER (2), NATALIE AYRIS (2)

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In the dying seconds of the 1st Clark-Crumpton nets her 2nd of the game!!! @icehockeyaus

In the dying seconds of the 1st Clark-Crumpton nets her 2nd of the game!!! @icehockeyausThe period ended with Australia leading the shot-count 12-6 (66.67% shot share). Three of the four goals were a result of rebounds and the fourth was off a defensive zone turnover in the slot. Iceland were on the verge of being routed if they could not find a way to control rebounds and clear the front of the net.

Second Period

Iceland started the period with a different goaltender between the pipes, Birta Helgudottir replaced Halldorsdottir. 40 seconds later, Shona Green raced to a loose puck on the half-wall and skated in alone on Helgudottir. There was an option in front for the cross crease pass which Helgudottir had to be aware of and drifted to cover the pass. Green instead pulled the puck back to her forehand and fired it near post for her second goal.

20:40 5-0 Australia – Shona Green (2)

ASHLIE APARICIO

 

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Shona Green (@MelbourneIceMIW) joins Clark-Crumpton in the Hat-Trick Watch club

1:33 later Australia lit the lamp once again in 4-on-4 action. Natalie Ayris collected her own rebound and put it through the sprawling Helgudottir’s wickets. I am crediting Ayris with the goal here as she is listed as the scorer on the IIHF website. However, Women’s Sports Highlights credits Shona Green with the goal. With the grainy footage it is hard to tell whether it is Ayris (#18) or Green (#10), so Women’s Sports Highlights may also be right.

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Only the most partisan of Australian supporters couldn’t help but feel sorry for the hosts, failing to score on home ice is a bitter pill to swallow for fans in attendance. As much as I would have liked to see an Oliva Last shutout, it was also nice to see Iceland get a consolation goal. Converting on some rare sustained offensive zone time, Iceland were able to generate a rebound from the point that wasn’t cleared and Sunna Bjorgvinsdottir’s shot squeaked through Last and into the net. Iceland were finally on the board.

38:37 6-1 Australia – Sunna Bjorgvinsdottir

ASSISTS: SAGA BLONDAL, SILVIA BJORGVINSDOTTIR

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ICELAND SCORES!!!! The home crowd loves it and is ready to cheer their team in the 3rd period

Shots were more even in the period, Australia with a slight 10-9 advantage for the period (52.6% shot share) and 22-15 lead for the game (59.46% shot share).

Third Period

Both teams seemed content to see time wind down, Australia rolled their lines and focused on maintaining their structure and playing smart two-way hockey. The defense stifled Iceland’s chances, keeping shots to the outside. The period ended with a 9-8 shot advantage for Australia (52.9% shot share), meaning they ended the contest with a comfortable 57.4% shot share.

Final Thoughts and What’s Next

This was a truly dominant display by the Australian team. As someone who has watched a lot of AWIHL games over the past few months, it was a real treat personally to watch these same incredible athletes play for their country. They outworked and out-skilled Iceland in an overpowering performance.

Next up for Australia is a matchup with Turkey and potentially a familiar face protecting the Turkish goal, Sydney Sirens goaltender Sera Dogramaci. Dogramaci was instrumental in helping Turkey defeat the Ukraine in overtime by a score of 3-2; Turkey was outshot 32-25 in the contest. The matchup could see two Sydney Sirens goaltenders in action, with Tina Girdler a possible starter for Australia.

Credits and our thanks go to:
Hockey Embassy
Women’s Sports Highlights

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!