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AWIHL Finals Preview

Women’s ice hockey will descend on Sydney this weekend as teams strive to lift the Joan McKowen Trophy

AWIHL Finals Weekend

The Australian Women's Ice Hockey League is set to descend upon Sydney this weekend. The semifinals will take place Saturday evening before the top two teams battle it out for the Joan McKowen Trophy on Sunday night.

The Sydney Sirens enter the weekend as the clear favorites after sweeping the season, while the defending champions Melbourne Ice will attempt to secure their fifth straight championship after a less-than-stellar season.

AWIHL Season Standings

Sydney Sirens (1) vs Adelaide Rush (4)

While Sydney has been on a winning run since October, Adelaide is a team with nothing left to lose. With a total of 12 losses to their name (the most recent pair coming at the hands of the Sirens themselves), Adelaide definitely has their work cut out for them against one of the AWIHL’s most potent offenses. With the Sirens finishing the season with a +32 goal differential, star forward Sharna Godfrey only held pointless in one game, and all three of their goalies sitting atop the save percentage rankings, it’s going to be a difficult for the underdogs Adelaide.

The game looks to be very much a David and Goliath-esque storyline: Adelaide's team points total for the season is less than Sydney's third-ranked player. However, Adelaide is a young team in the middle of a rebuild; the team's overall defense needs to improve if their goalies are to have any hope of keeping them in the game against Sydney's firepower. Adelaide's goalies split the starts this season; however, regardless of who was in net they faced over 50 shots on average per game, with the skaters seemingly unable to lock their defensive zone down.

Though this game might only end up being a footnote on Sydney’s run to the championship game, that doesn’t make it any less important. The team needs to focus on playing their system and playing it well in preparation for taking on either the Brisbane Goannas or the Melbourne Ice.

Brisbane Goannas (2) vs Melbourne Ice (3)

Brisbane and Melbourne look to be a much closer matchup, with the pair splitting the season series between them with two wins apiece and only a one-goal differential between them.

Ice forward Christina Julien will be pivotal to Melbourne’s success. She tallied 32 points through the regular season and has proven herself to be the more dominant offensive player in the league. She scored five more goals than any other player while leading the league in points. Brisbane has had no real trouble putting up points either, with Emma Grey recording a league-high 13 assists throughout the season.

Brisbane’s real power however comes from the back end. Goaltenders Ashleigh Brown and Imogen Perry sit behind only Sydney's three-headed monster in the league goaltender rankings. Brown, who is returning to the sport after a break, is having a career season, posting a .921 save percentage and one shutout across six games.

Brisbane Goannas goaltender Ashleigh Brown minding her net against the Sydney Sirens in February 2017.
Ice Hockey Australia

However, Perry has remained undefeated against Melbourne this season, so it’s still anyone's guess who will end up in net come Saturday.

This semifinal looks to be a closely fought battle with both teams looking for a shot at the Joan McKowen Trophy. While Melbourne have proven themselves time and time again to be a playoff team, taking out the highest honor in the last four seasons, Brisbane is still looking for their first chance having not made it to the championship game in league history.

Saturday’s games will be taking place at 5pm AEST (2am ET) for Sydney vs. Adelaide, and 7:30pm AEST (4:30am ET) for Melbourne vs. Brisbane.

The championship match will be at 6:30pm (3:30am ET) on Sunday.

The bronze medal match will take place at 4pm AEST (1am ET) on Sunday.