The second-place Adelaide Rush will begin their title challenge against the third-place Melbourne Ice in the second semi-final of the 2020 AWIHL playoffs. The game will be held 5:30pm AEDT Saturday, February 1, at Docklands’ O’Brien Icehouse in Melbourne.
Melbourne, the incumbent champions, will be looking to make another addition to their trophy cabinet, already boasting a record-breaking seven titles, all of which were won in the last nine years. Adelaide will be looking to win their seventh title, and their first as the Adelaide Rush. Their previous wins came as the Adelaide Adrenaline (1 title) and Adelaide Assassins (5 titles).
Adelaide and Melbourne battled each other twice this season, Melbourne serving as the host to the back-to-back games on the last weekend of the regular season. Adelaide came into the matchups without a regulation loss, and needed a win to seal first-place overall.
The Ice froze the Rush in their tracks with a 4-2 win on Saturday (you can read a review here), followed by a 3-2 win on Sunday (you can read a review here). Adelaide outshot Melbourne over the matchups 62-52, but ran into a hot goaltender in Makayla Peers. The young netminder is likely to enter the finals as back-up to the more experienced Jenelle Carson. However, Peers has shown the coaching staff that she can be relied upon if required.
Both games were penalty-filled affairs, with 28 Penalties in Minutes (PIMS) in the first game (12 Adelaide, 16 Melbourne) and 73 PIMS in the second game (22 Adelaide, 51 Melbourne). An eye-popping total of 101 minutes of penalties over 120 minutes of hockey. The message from both coaches to their players will no doubt be to play more disciplined hockey. Giving the opposition powerplay opportunities, considering the offensive weapons available to each team, is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
Season by the Numbers
The above table has goals removed for shootout victories/losses.
A quick glance at the scoring table will show that this matchup will feature the top two defences in the league. The Rush were the only team to concede less than 3 goals per game, and Melbourne weren’t far behind.
One statistic that the table doesn’t show is that home teams outscored away opposition 145 to 110 in 30 opportunities. That means that scores were, on average, 4.833 to 3.667 in favour of the home team. As the finals hosts, Melbourne should enjoy an edge in fan support, though it will by no means be a partisan crowd.
If regular season trends continue, expect this fixture to be the lowest scoring over finals weekend. And yes, feel free to yell at me when this instead turns into a 15-14 scoring bonanza.
Comments from Adelaide Rush Head Coach Joey MacDougall
Adelaide Rush Head Coach Joey MacDougall was kind enough to make himself available to answer a few questions regarding his team’s semi-final matchup with the Melbourne Ice.
What’s your team’s mindset heading into the semi-final, and how can you get a different result against a Melbourne team that managed to win both tightly contested games over the weekend?
Our mindset heading into the semis is that we need to play a more disciplined, structured game and find that grit and determination we were playing with before the holiday break. There is no doubt that Melbourne Ice are a good team and I think that last weekends’ losses were a real eye opener to what its going to take to make the championship game.
I assume Michelle Coonan gets the start, or will Joanne Phillis be in net?
You may have assumed correctly…
Any other comments regarding the finals and your teams preparation?
The whole team has worked really hard this season and it shows. Everyone is really looking forward to the finals weekend. We surprised a lot of people around the league this season and this is our chance to solidify our rank, prove that it wasn’t by chance. Finals weekend will be a challenge, but I have complete confidence in our team.
Comments from Melbourne Ice Import Megan Eady
Melbourne Ice star import Megan Eady was also kind enough to answer a few questions regarding her team’s preparation for the semi-finals.
A couple of closely matched, physical, penalty-filled games against the Rush, can we expect more of the same in your rematch in the finals?
Yes, I think we can expect a similar game against Adelaide, but I think there will be more intensity and urgency from both teams. I don’t think we saw Adelaide’s best hockey when we played them, they were just coming back after a long break. I think they’re going to be a better team when we see them in the semi-final, so we need to stay out of the penalty box if we want to be successful.
Obviously there’s a level of confidence that must come from beating your opponent twice, what’s the key to repeating that success?
The key to repeating success will be to be more disciplined and more focused than last time we played them. We know they’re going to be a better team and bring more fight. We need to be extremely disciplined in terms of penalties, and we need to play the structured hockey we have been working on all season.
Makayla Peers played extremely well over the weekend, any chance she gets the start over Jenelle Carson?
Makayla had an unbelievable weekend against Adelaide and she definitely proved to our team and to the entire league that she can hold her own. She put on an outstanding performance. However, I believe the goaltending decision will be up to the coaching staff, and all I can say is as a team we will support and play our hearts out for whichever goalie gets played.
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.
If you want to follow me on Twitter (CanStrayan) where I yell about random hockey stuff, click here. Also, give Hockey Embassy a like on Facebook to keep up to date with our latest hockey articles. Make sure you follow the AWIHL twitter account here, follow them on Facebook here, and enjoy your week!