A Tina Girdler shutout has led the Sydney Sirens to their second Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy, defeating the Adelaide Rush 3-0 in the AWIHL Grand Final in front of a packed O’Brien Icehouse on Sunday night.
After dispatching the Perth Inferno in a goalfest of a semi-final on Saturday, the Sirens grabbed two power play goals in the first period and added another at even strength in the third to claim their second AWIHL title and their first since the 2017 season.
The Rush, who finished last in 2018/2019 to finish second in the standings at the conclusion of season 2019/2020, came into the game riding a surge of momentum after knocking off the defending champion Melbourne Ice 4-2 in the semi-final.
The Sirens grabbed the opening goal of the game on a 5-on-4 after Natasha Farrier was sent to the box for charging. Sarah Edney threw a shot on Rush goalie Michelle Coonan which rebounded out in front. Stephanie Cochrane managed to jam the puck home in the ensuing goal mouth scramble and Sydney had a 1-0 lead with 6:11 gone in the first.
A 5-on-3 power play to Sydney late in the first period led to another Sirens barrage and ultimately, their second goal.
Ava Calabria dished a pass to Amelia Matheson at the point who blasted one from the top of the circle, beating Coonan to make it 2-0 with 1:37 remaining in the period.
The scoreline would remain the same at the first intermission.
Despite the Rush starting the second period with a 5-on-4, the period became an arm wrestle with both teams refusing to give an inch of territory, and featured several quality stops by both Girdler and Coonan in their respective nets. Adelaide's best chance to claw a goal back came on a 5-on-3 midway through the second, but unfortunately they failed to capitalise despite quality chances to both Sarah Lutz and Farrier.
Kirsty Venus also had a great chance for the Rush, breaking in behind the Sirens defence on a 4-on-4, only to be stonewalled by Girdler to keep it at 2-0.
The score line didn’t change for the remainder of the period and the Sirens went into the second intermission 2-0, just 20 minutes away from a possible second AWIHL title.
Adelaide came out of the gate swinging to start the third period but just couldn’t break past Girdler, who showed why she will make her debut in net for Australia on the world stage. Coonan made several great stops at the other end, including several saves during an early 5-on-4 penalty kill to Adelaide.
It appeared neither team could break the deadlock during the remainder of regulation, until Edney found a way through for the Sirens.
Edney skated in down the left-hand side all the way from centre ice and threw a wrist shot on Coonan, which found daylight between her and the crossbar making it a 3-0 game with 10:54 to play in regulation.
The Rush had a couple of chances to Natalie Ayris and Farrier to try and claw the deficit back, but Girdler again had the answers. Adelaide found themselves in a hole late in the game, after being short-handed again on another 5-on-3 with 7 minutes to go. Coonan managed to keep the door shut, giving the Rush a final breath of momentum to try and build a late comeback.
However, the clock would prove to be Adelaide’s nemesis and Edney’s goal would be the final one for the game. The Sirens contained Adelaide for the remainder of regulation, running out 3-0 winners and delivering the Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy to Sydney for the second time in the club’s existence.
Earlier in the day, the Melbourne Ice secured the bronze medal with a victory over the Perth Inferno.
The 2019/2020 AWIHL Award winners were also announced at the conclusion of the game.
Congratulations to the following players on their awards this season:
MVP: Natasha Farrier (Adelaide Rush)
Highest point scorer: Kayla Nielsen (Sydney Sirens)
Best forward: Kayla Nielsen (Sydney Sirens)
Best defence: Sarah Edney (Sydney Sirens)
Best goaltender: Michelle Coonan (Adelaide Rush)
Rookie of the year: Courtney Mahoney (Brisbane Goannas)
It will be a short respite for many AWIHL players, as they prepare to represent Australia at the IIHF Division 2B Women’s World Championships, beginning in just two weeks’ time in Iceland from 23-29 February 2020.
A full replay of the Gold Medal Game is available here: