Entering today, the standings and playoff matchups could have been finalised with a Adelaide Rush regulation victory and a Brisbane Goannas victory. Instead, both home teams won; Melbourne Ice defeated Adelaide Rush 4-2 earlier in the afternoon; and Perth Inferno defeated Brisbane Goannas 4-1.
The Goannas were already short-handed with some player unavailable due to overseas tournaments. Further complications associated with travel meant that the Goannas needed to fill their line-up with four local Western Australian players at relatively short notice.
Perth was hungry for their first win of the season and had a golden opportunity to control their own destiny. Win both games against the Goannas, and they would be assured the fourth and final playoff spot.
Less than two minutes into the game, the Inferno struck first. Captain Courtney Moulton leading the way with a wicked wrist-shot that went over Goanna Goaltender Imogen Perry’s blocker and into the top-corner of the net.
Later in the period, there were technical difficulties that affected the streaming. So in the absence of footage to be able to provide thoughtful analysis on, here’s a picture of some Goannas supporters.
Footage was later restored in time to see the Inferno head to the powerplay with six and a half minutes remaining. Perth had been lethal with the woman-advantage last week against Melbourne, and it was lethal again. Nora Maclaine doubling Perth’s advantage and continuing her blistering form with a one-timer from the slot.
The first period would end 2-0 in favour of the Inferno, despite some good pressure from the Goannas.
The second would bring another Inferno powerplay and another powerplay goal from Nora Maclaine. The dynamic #63 skated the puck below the goal line before cutting back in front of the net to the slot and firing the puck past Perry. It was yet another fantastic goal from Maclaine, and Perth found themselves with a three goal lead.
Brisbane would respond and nearly cut into the lead on a breakaway but Sasha King made an excellent blocker save to deny the Goannas.
Later in the period, the Goannas would find themselves with a 5-on-3 powerplay. With time having just expired on the first penalty, Jamie Goonan took matters into her own hands, skating from the blueline to the far edge of the left face-off circle before putting her shot top-cheddar, and putting the Goannas on the board. 3-1 with just over a period remaining.
The Perth Inferno have been incredibly unlucky to not have a win to their name all season. They came out for the third period looking determined to change all of that. Brisbane fought bravely, skating the puck out of their zone and withstanding wave after wave of Perth attacks. With 15 minutes remaining in the game, Captain Courtney Moulton caused chaos in front of the crease, deflecting a point shot home for the 4-1 advantage.
Last week the Inferno also held a 4-1 lead in the third period, only to see it evaporate, leading to a 6-6 tie with the Melbourne Ice. This week would see no such collapse. Facing an admittedly depleted Goannas team, Perth played a solid, structured game for the remainder of the third, not allowing the Goannas to sustain offensive pressure.
Goaltender Sasha King was good when she needed to be, and the Perth Inferno finally had their first win of the season. To do it in front of their fans on home ice is extra special.
Third Star – Sasha King. The Inferno needed a win, and the goaltender answered the call throughout the game, including a stunning breakaway save. The goal she allowed against Jamie Goonan was unstoppable.
Second Star – Courtney Moulton. I could have easily given her the first star as well, the captain has shown exceptional leadership, seemingly willing her team to finals contention. A two-goal night now has the finals within reach.
First Star – Nora Maclaine. I gave the edge to Nora Maclaine for the timing of the goals. Her two powerplay goals, including the game winner, gave Perth the breathing room they needed to settle in and play their game. Additionally, her ability to create zone exits and entries is a joy to watch and helps the team get out of defensive trouble and create offense.
All to Play For
Tune in for the final games of the AWIHL regular season tomorrow via the AWIHL YouTube channel (make sure you subscribe). The top spot on the table will be decided in the Melbourne Ice vs Adelaide Rush game. Can the Rush seize top-spot from the Sirens and avoid facing the Ice in the first round? The fourth and final playoff spot is up for grabs in a winner-take-all rematch between the Brisbane Goannas and the Perth Inferno.
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