The Sydney Sirens beat the Adelaide Rush to win the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League Grand Final this past weekend.
The Melbourne Ice beat the Perth Inferno in the Bronze Medal match.
The 2019-20 Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League Semi-Finals, Bronze medal game, and Grand Final took place last weekend, the 1-2 of February 2020.
The finals weekend occurred after a thirty game regular season, which started the end of October and continued to the middle of January. Each of the five teams had played 12 regular-season games. Teams played each other two to four times each.
The regular season saw the Sydney Sirens finish first in the league. Two of their players, Kayla Nielsen and Nadie Edney finished top joint scorers. Nielsen edged out Edney in top points with 31 overall due to one more assist.
The Adelaide Rush, Melbourne Ice, and Perth Inferno finished next in the league and made the finals weekend. Only the Brisbane Goannas, who finished the regular season with only one win, did not make the semi-finals.
The entirety of the finals weekend took place at the O’Brien Ice House in Melbourne, Victoria. Both semi-finals took place on February, 1 2020. The Bronze medal match and the Grand Final took place on February 2, 2020.
Semi-Finals: Sydney Sirens-Perth Inferno/Adelaide-Rush-Melbourne Ice
The first semi-final was between the regular season first ranked Sydney Sirens and fourth-ranked Perth Inferno.
The Sirens had won 10 games in the regular season and were, therefore, the favourites against a two-win season Perth Inferno. The match turned into a goal-fest, with 22 goals total.
The Sirens continued their regular-season form, with six different players scoring 14 goals. Jillian Murphy, Sharna Godfrey and Kayla Nielsen notably each netted hat tricks in the match.
Nadine Edney and Amelia Matheson each produced four assists apiece, half of the 16 produced by Sydney.
The Inferno put in a performance of their own. Courtney Moulton, Elizabeth Scala, and Nora Maclaine each produced a brace, with Isla Malcolm and Michelle Clark-Crumpton scoring one each.
The effort was not enough though. The Sirens won the semi-final 14-8 against the Inferno, sealing their place in the Grand Final.
The second semi-final of the day was between the second-ranked Adelaide Rush and third-ranked Melbourne Ice.
While the match started in Melbourne’s favour, with the host’s Rylie Padjen scoring one goal in the first period and Christina Julian scoring a second in the second period, the Adelaide Rush were next to find the back of the net.
The Rush put in the second goal of the second period and three goals in the third. Sasha Lutz and Tash Farrier not only scored two each but also assisted all of each other’s goals with help from Natalie Ayris on one account.
The Rush won the match 2-4 to go on to meet the Sirens in the Grand Final. The Inferno met the Ice in the Bronze medal match.
Bronze-Medal Match: Melbourne Ice-Perth Inferno
The Perth Inferno met the hosts, the Melbourne Ice for the first match of the day on February 2, 2020.
The Inferno were the first to get points on the board, with a Nora Maclaine goal. Maclaine intercepted the puck off a Melbourne cross-ice pass in front of the Ice’s goal. She then pulled the trigger to score an unassisted goal in the 11thminute of the first period.
Melbourne got their first points of the game in the second period. While Perth were trying to clear the puck out of their zone, Ashlie Aparicio picked up the puck and shot on goal. After the puck deflected back the Melbourne Ice’s Christina Julian was able to put the rebound away to equalize.
The Ice doubled their account in the 12th minute of the second period with a cross-ice pass from Shona Green to Niamh Gallacher who put it in.
The Inferno then went on to equalize, with a Nikki Sharp goal. The 15-year-old Youth Olympics Bronze medalist acquired the puck at her blue line and skated up the left-hand side to score an unassisted goal.
It was not long though for the hosts to get the lead again with Marnie Pullin picking up the puck on the right-hand side at the blue line and going in to score an unassisted goal of her own. Melbourne ended the second period up 3-2.
Melbourne then doubled their lead early in the third period. Christina Julian skated behind the net and passed in front of the goal. Ashley Aparicio put it in for the Ice.
The Inferno did not give up though, scoring a third goal with two minutes to go. With the advantage of a power play, the Perth Inferno attacked the Ice. Using good passing play, Courtney Moulton passed it to Elizabeth Scala who centered it for Nora Maclaine to put it in.
It was however too little too late for Perth. Melbourne won the bronze medal 4-3.
Grand Final Match: Sydney Sirens-Adelaide Rush
The regular season winners, the Sydney Sirens, faced the regular season runners up, the Adelaide Rush, in the Grand Final match.
While the Sirens have previously made the finals, it was the first time that Adelaide were playing for gold as the Rush.
Like the regular season, the Sirens showed their superiority out-shooting the Rush 32 shots to 23.
A defensive match, the Sirens’ goaltender Tina Girdler was arguably the player of the match for Sydney, managing to stop all shots on goal.
Sydney opened their scoring account in the first period. After Tash Farrier was sent to the penalty box for a charging call, the Sirens showed their dominance in the power play. Sharna Godfrey passed the puck in front of the net.
It found Nadine Edney whose shot on goal rebounded only to be picked up by Stephenie Cochrane who then put it in.
With less than two minutes left in the first period, Amelia Matheson doubled the Sirens' score. While the Rush’s Kirty Venus and Tash Farrier were in the penalty box for body and cross checking respectively, the Sirens’ 5 on 3 position was too much for Adelaide to contain.
Ava Calabria’s shot found Chloe Walker who passed it wide to Matheson. Matheson’s wound up shot then found the back of the net.
The third and final goal of the match occurred in the third period’s 10th minute. Sarah Edney picked up the puck just outside the blue line and after skating diagonally across goal, decking two Rush players, she had her shot on goal go in.
The match ended 3-0 for the Sydney Sirens.
The 2019-20 Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League season was all Sydney Sirens who had a stellar year.
The Sirens started by winning the minor premiers’, the regular season first place’s, West Lakes Trophy. They then followed this by winning the Grand Final’s Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy.
On an individual basis, the Sirens’ Kayla Nielsen finished the season as the highest point scorer and was awarded the Best Forward award.
The Best Defense award went to the Sirens’ Sarah Edney and the Best Goalie went to the Rush’s Michelle Coonan. Brisbane’s Courtney Mahoney won the Nellie Gee Rookie of the Year award.
Adelaide’s Natasha Farrier was named the Skaters Network Player of the Year.
When speaking on Grand Final day, the AWIHL commissioner Melisa Rulli praised the last season’s success in terms of growth for the sport and growth in exposure in Australia.
Hinting at the desire for a possible future expansion to six teams, Rulli highlighted the importance of the league for women’s hockey in Australia.
The league serves both as a place of development and growth for individual players, as well as a place of preparation for the national team, the Mighty Jills.
With nearly the entirety of the Australian Women’s national team playing AWIHL, the season is crafted to reproduce as close as possible the hockey conditions encountered at the World Championships.
The Mighty Jills will be competing at the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Women’s Division Two Championship later this month.
They will be in Group B, whose tournament will be taking place in Iceland. Australia will play 5 round-robin games from February 23 - 29, 2020.
Their first match will be against Iceland on February 23, 2020 at Akureyri Ice Rink.