The first-place Sydney Sirens will face off against the fourth-place Perth Inferno in the first semi-final of the 2020 AWIHL Playoffs. The game will be held 3:00pm AEDT Saturday, February 1, at Docklands’ O’Brien Icehouse in Melbourne.
The Sirens will be looking to win their second Joan McKowen trophy. The Perth Inferno, in their sophomore season, will be looking to win their first, and improve on last year’s third-place finish.
Sydney and Perth played twice this season; Sydney hosted the back-to-back matchups on November 2-3. In the first game of the season series, Sydney managed to stave off a late Inferno charge and win in a 10-9 thriller. The Sirens followed that up the next day with a more comfortable 7-3 win.
Over that weekend, the Sirens peppered the Inferno net with 61 and 54 shots respectively. Perth mustered a more than respectable 48 shots on net in response in both games.
Season by the Numbers
The above table has goals removed for shootout victories/losses.
Sydney was a dominant offensive juggernaut all season long, scoring on average 2.75 more goals per game than their opponents. Both teams played high-event hockey. Games involving the Sirens averaged 9.4 goals per game. Only the Inferno were involved in more high-scoring games, seeing 10.58 goals per game.
If regular season trends carry over into the playoffs, this matchup could lead to the most offensive output of any game played over the weekend. That being said, both head coaches would no doubt like to see less-stressful, defensively responsible hockey.
Both teams have an enviable depth of offensive weapons on their teams, enjoying scoring beyond just the top-line. Although Perth have been outscored handily over the course of the season, for the 10 games in which they failed to record a win (9 losses and 1 tie), they were either leading, tied, or trailing by a single goal in the third period in 7 of those games.
Repeatedly throughout the season, Perth watched bounces go the other team’s way in the final frame. Some better luck, coupled with the growing confidence and experience of their two young netminders, should lead to this matchup being closer than the standings suggest.
Comments from the Sydney Sirens
I was recently able to get in contact with Sydney Sirens Head Coach Jayden Ryan, and star forward Sharna Godfrey. Both were generous with their time in answering questions regarding finals weekend.
Your team comes into finals weekend off an almost three-week layoff. How has the team managed to stay sharp in the meantime? Have you had opportunities to improve in specific areas of your game in training?
We’ve been lucky enough to have two trainings a week which has given us an opportunity to work on some key aspects of our game. We’ve had a chance to concentrate on a few areas that we’ve been breaking down in. Still some work to do but definitely looking strong.Sharna Godfrey
You face an Inferno team in the semi-final that finished 22 points below you in the standings, but your head-to-head matchups were closer than what the standings would suggest. What’s the team’s mindset heading into your matchup, and what are the keys to victory?
We faced them round one, so we were still trying to figure out how each other played and sort out line connections. Since then we have definitely come together more as a team now and found some very strong connections within our lines. We need to stay switched on for three full periods. We are really excited for the weekend.Sharna Godfrey
With both games being high scoring I expect it to be fairly similar. But I really would like to focus on our defence first and taking away any potential rebounds after the first shot they take. But as those games were the first round for us and with some new players we have been able to gel together a lot more on and off the ice together. It will be a lower scoring game and hopefully not 10-9, as much as it was exciting for the fans.
Even though Perth finished in fourth, they took it to Melbourne the other weekend, and with it being a 1-game elimination, anything can happen. So, yes, the points/standings don’t mean anything.Jayden Ryan
Are you able to confirm who will get the start in Saturday’s matchup? Sera Dogramaci or Tina Girdler?
No, sorry, we still have two more practices and both our goalies have played good all season. So it will really be a decision after our final practice with the rest of the coaching staff.Jayden Ryan
Any other comments you wish to make regarding finals weekend?
The standings this year are so different to last year. There have been some really close games between the four teams this season. The weekend will be a showcase of some really great hockey.Sharna Godfrey
I think this will be a great weekend of competitive hockey for the girls, especially being at the best rink in the country with such great facilities.Jayden Ryan
Comments from the Perth Inferno
Perth Inferno Head Coach Paul Graham, and star import Nora Maclaine were happy to answer similar questions from their perspective regarding their matchup with the Sydney Sirens.
A big couple of weekends where you outplayed the Melbourne Ice and were unlucky to receive just the single point, but able to clinch with a couple of dominant performances against Brisbane. What’s the mindset going into the match against the Sirens?
I think it’s to build off the momentum from the past two weekends. We’ve fallen short most of the season until our final two wins, but the scores of our games this regular season don’t reflect how we have been playing and know how to play. We just have to focus on what works best for us and continue to do the simple things. Last time we played Sydney, it was a pretty even match and we just fell short, so we just have to go into the playoffs with the confidence that we can win.Nora Maclaine
We are very excited to be going into the finals weekend against the top team in the league. Our recent run of results have given us a good confidence boost and hopefully we can continue to build on the strong finish we had.
Our first game against Sydney saw us down 10-6 with three minutes remaining in the game. After a strong push, when most people would have written us off, we battled back to finish the game 10-9. That game was a perfect example of how the team are able to rally when we are under pressure.Paul Graham
Has a decision been made on which goaltender will start against Sydney, whether it will be Sasha King or Sydney Fricker?
Ultimately that’s up to coach Paul, so don’t think I can answer that one right now. They’ve both had some incredible moments this season and have been splitting every weekend, but as of right now I can’t answer that one.Nora Maclaine
We’ve not decided on who will play in the Sydney game as yet. We usually see how the goalies are performing in practice and how they pull up after travelling. We will probably make that call the morning of finals.Paul Graham
Any other comments regarding finals weekend you wish to make?
I’m just excited to get to Melbourne!Nora Maclaine
We’re really looking forward to a great weekend of hockey at the finals in Melbourne.Paul Graham
How to Watch the Games
Fans can buy tickets to the finals series from finals.awihllive.com. The tickets are very reasonably priced and it’s a great way to watch the greatest live sport on earth, escape the summer heat, and spend a Saturday and/or Sunday afternoon in a family-friendly environment.
If you can’t get to Docklands to watch the games, the AWIHL are broadcasting the games via their YouTube channel. Please be sure to subscribe. They are so close to hitting their goal of 1,000 subscribers, so if you haven’t already done so, you know what to do. Click here for the direct link to the stream.
Stay tuned to this site, all going well, the preview of the second semi-final between the Adelaide Rush and the Melbourne Ice will be available for your viewing pleasure tomorrow.
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