In a stunning conclusion to both the Melbourne Ice and Adelaide Rush’s regular season, Melbourne defeated Adelaide 3-2. After defeating the Rush in Saturday’s game (check out the game review here), Sunday’s win ensured Melbourne denied Adelaide’s chance to take top spot on the AWIHL table. The Ice will face the Rush again in a semi-final matchup on Saturday, February 1.
The Adelaide Rush entered the match without a back-up goaltender. Analyst Alyssa Longmuir revealed that only one goalie was dressed for the game due to match penalties being handed out to members of the coaching staff. Joanne Phillis, the regular back-up netminder, was called upon to make use of her coaching certificate to stand behind the bench.
The Ice started strong, Ashley Aparicio deftly kicking the puck up to her stick and enter the zone to create a scoring chance. Rush netminder Michelle Coonan needed to be sharp to deny Nicole Jones’ backhand attempt from the slot.
The crowds loud cheering matched the shirts, the arena hosting a Hawaiian shirt game.
Goaltender Makayla Peers, the undisputed player of the game on Saturday, was called into action after just under four minutes of play. A neutral zone pass took a kind deflection off an Ice defenders skate, giving Rush forward Natalie Ayris a breakaway chance.
Peers went into the butterfly position when the shot was fired, but managed to keep her upper body raised to stop the puck with what appeared to be her shoulder/mask.
Shortly afterwards the Ice would head to the powerplay. The Rush did a good job killing off a portion of the powerplay; Olivia Cook skating the puck out of trouble. However, after a good zone pass by Megan Eady allowed Ashlie Aparicio to enter the zone and she set up Nicole Jones who slid it five-hole past a partially-screened Coonan. Credit was given to Aparicio and Yeo for the assists but after re-watching the game it should be Aparicio and Eady with the apples. Regardless, Melbourne had a 1-0 lead after 5:50 of play.
Melbourne were determined to consolidate their lead maintaining offensive zone time before this happened.
Christina Julien taking the puck from the half-boards, skating to the slot, and putting a back-hander top-shelf where mom hides the cookies. A beautiful individual effort from the skilled Ice captain.
Minutes later Sasha Lutz created a scoring chance from another beautiful individual effort. The skilled forward gained the zone, danced around a couple of Ice defenders before seeing her backhand shot stopped by Peers. The goaltender ensured there was no rebound but Lutz did manage to draw a penalty for her efforts. Ketta Scheuerlein sitting two minutes for hooking.
The Ice did a good job killing off the penalty, goaltender Peers doing well to deny Lizzie Aveson. The Rush would generate momentum from the powerplay. Shortly after the woman advantage, Aveson generated another scoring chance. Her initial shot saved by Peers, Aveson collected the rebound and sent it out in front, but Peers sprawled to cover the puck and keep the Rush off the scoresheet.
It was Melbourne’s turn to generate pressure, Christine Dutton finding herself with the puck above the hashmarks, but Coonan was equal to the shot.
The period would end 2-0 in the Ice’s favour much to the delight of Ice and Sirens fans alike.
The second period maintained the same frenetic back and forth pace of the first. The Ice found themselves shorthanded just under a minute and a half into the period and they would make the Ice pay. Sasha Lutz, with time dwindling on the woman-advantage, powered a perfectly placed shot above Peers’ glove and into the top corner. 2-1 Ice, assists going to Tash Farrier and Natalie Ayris.
Physical play crept in to the game, just as it had the previous day.
The Rush continued to pile on the pressure, mainly through Farrier, Lutz Aveson and Ayris.
When Rylie Padjen went off for a slashing call with just under three minutes to play, it seemed like a matter of time before parity was restored. However, the Ice played excellent team defense to kill off the penalty. Padjen then managed to generate a scoring chance coming out of the box. The Rush were unable to clear the zone and after some sustained zone pressure, Marnie Pullin consolidated the Ice’s advantage. 3-1 Ice.
With seconds remaining in the period Pullin took the puck off the boards, went to the slot spotted Coonan moving to her left and put the backhanded shot to the right of Coonan. The lone assist went to Shona Green.
The previous days’ game between the two teams descended into a penalty-filled affair and that’s what happened in the third. Both teams took multiple penalties.
In the midst of a five on three advantage, the Rush gave up a shorthanded breakaway attempt to Christina Julien. That’s a sight no goaltender likes to see but Michelle Coonan kept her team in the game, tracking Julien well to deny the opportunity.
The Rush would eventually convert on one of the plethora of powerplays. Kaitlyn Malthaner scoring off a give-and-go pass, going to the front of the net, and putting the puck past Peers. 3-2. The assist from Gretzky’s office was awarded to Lizzie Aveson.
The game saw some controversy when with just over two minutes left the Ice put the puck in the Rush net.
A goal was initially awarded, but after a minute of consultation the goalie was adjudged to have been interfered with. The partisan crowd voiced their displeasure, but the decision was unchanged.
Peers made a couple more key saves and the Ice ensured the clock wound down with the score in their favour, 3-2. In the end, a well-deserved win for the Ice. If this weekends head-to-head matchups are any indication, fans are in for a highly competitive semi-final.
Third Star – Michelle Coonan. The Rush goaltender made some key saves, including a beauty on the breakaway against Julien. She played well this weekend and kept her team in each of the games.
Second Star – Christina Julien. The skilled forward scored a goal and was a dangerous threat on the penalty kill. The Ice Captain will be looking to lift her team to victory against this same Rush team in a little under a fortnight.
First Star – Makayla Peers. Once again the Melbourne Ice should be lining up to pay for their rookie netminder’s dinner. Peers had to be superb at times to keep her team in the lead. Melbourne will be confident in turning to Peers in the finals should the need arise.
As always, you can watch the games on the AWIHL YouTube channel (make sure you subscribe). Stay tuned to this site for a Finals preview article. Fingers-crossed I will be able to get some comments from members of each of the teams involved to include in the article. Fans can buy tickets to the finals series from finals.awihllive.com.
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