Behind the mask with Sera Dogramaci of the Sydney Sirens

“Smile. Tarik. Enjoy.”

This season, the Sydney Sirens won their first ever Joan McKowen Trophy, the highest honor a team can win in the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League. Sera Dogramaci was the goalie for the Sirens in the championship game, and she took the time to record her thoughts about the day her team won it all.

A few hours before the Grand Final game, I was both nervous and excited. I don't think I've ever felt both so strongly at the same time before. I knew I had to control it and did have a little chat with Sarah Morgan, who has been working with us this season with our mindset and goal-setting.

Still controlling those nerves and hoping the excitement I felt showed more on the outside, I went about warm up the usual way, grabbing a couple of high bounce ball to do some hand-eye coordination exercises just outside the change room, in the moments before the coaches call us in for the pre-game talk.

On the ice, the warm up always gives me a chance to shake off the nerves and settle into my home. I don't have to worry about what pucks go past at this point. It's just the warm up, and we're all just getting a feel for the ice, the puck, the surroundings, and making sure we're good to go.

I was smiling at the start of the game, and tried to keep smiling after a couple of goals went in. Even when it was 3-1, and I felt that I was letting the team down. Looking over the tape later, I could have done a lot within my control to prevent each of those goals, but they're issues I knew I had and just wasn't able to correct in time for the weekend.

After the third goal, I started to get angry, determined not to let anything else go past. This was Sirens’ year to win the gold. This was my year to win that gold for them. I wasn't letting anyone take that away from me. Between the 2nd and 3rd periods, my husband Reynolds gave me a much-needed pep talk. Jeff, our assistant coach, reminded me to keep looking at my blocker - to lean on those 3 words I have written there to get me through "Smile. Tarik. Enjoy.” (Tarik is Dogramaci’s son)

Then Steph reminded me who I play for and kept reminding me throughout the rest of the game. It was a combination of all three resulted in smiles again and reminded me to just enjoy the game.

When Neata put two in the back of Brisbane's net, it lifted the whole team. The bench. The crowd. I was so proud of that girl and knew we were in with a fighting chance now. I just had to maintain my composure and ensure I was on top of my game.

OT was nerve-racking, especially with the breakaway early on from Rosie. Those 10 minutes were physically tough for the girls on both teams, and I could see it in front of me. I kept an eye on the clock and watched it trickle down. And as the seconds ran out the score remained tied 3-3. So then came the shootout. Anyone that knows me knows I love shootouts. I was smiling on the bench, and Jeff gave me three words to go by, "Routine, routine, routine.” Easy, right.

Each time I took my place in net, I was smiling. I was ready. Same thing every time. As soon as that puck is touched, my mind goes blank and I rely completely on instincts. ​I've done this what feel hundreds of times over many years and despite what was riding on the line, the pressure didn't get to me.

But that last shot, it did. I knew right away that I had gone down early, throwing everything at it including my stick hoping I'd get a piece of it. Somehow, I did manage to save it and instantly realised we had done it.

Getting up off my back I spun around and looked at our bench where the rest of the girls had just realised we had won. I flung off my gloves, ripped off my mask, and yelled out as they came racing over to me with my arms wide open as they crashed into me for a massive group hug. We kept sliding towards the end boards as more girls piled in, where Reynolds had his hands high on the netting, yelling in celebration. I was already emotional and seeing Mel and Kaylee cry, and while retired coach John Harvey behind us shed a tear, it just made it that much sweeter knowing how hard we've fought for this and how much it meant to so many of us.

All the while Tarik was asleep, completely unaware of what was going on. So I dragged Reynolds onto the ice to take a photo. After Reynolds says one thing to me. “Do you doubt yourself now?” I just smiled.

Eventually, I went back to pick up my gloves, my helmet my stick, all still scattered on the ice where I had thrown then in the heat of the celebration when I noticed the puck was still sitting there.

So I took that too.

- Sera Dogramaci

Goalkeeper for the 2017 Joan McKowen Trophy Sydney Sirens