For the first time since the end of the 2019/20 season, the AWIHL is back with the Sydney Sirens looking to defend their title.
They’re joined by the Melbourne Ice, Perth Inferno, Adelaide Rush, and the newly rebranded Brisbane Lightning (previously the Brisbane Goannas). The Lightning will also field a men’s team as part of the AIHL next season.
Opening weekend saw the Lightning make the trip down to Sydney to face the Sirens on Saturday night and Sunday morning, with the aim to head back to Queensland with something to take from the weekend.
The league got back underway with a bang, providing 11 goals as the Sirens ran out 8-3 winners over the Lightning.
The Sirens flew out to a 3-0 lead to end the first and were fantastic short-handed, giving away a 5v3 for 1:45 during the first period and killing it successfully. They then had to kill either side of the first intermission as Shiarna Tarasenko would go to the box for an illegal hit with 51 seconds remaining in the first.
Tarasenko would again find her way to the box in the second period, forcing the Sirens short-handed for four minutes with a double minor (two for hooking, two for abuse). The Lightning would capitalise as Georgia Watts would find the back of the net.
The Sirens would wind out the second period scoring another two goals to extend the lead to four at 5-1 heading into the third period. This would start with another Sirens goal just 1:33 into the frame as Ebony Brunt would hit the scoresheet.
It would take just 38 seconds for the Lightning to respond to cut the lead back to four as Alexandra MacDonald made it 6-2.
Robin Ketcheson (7-2), Veera Laiho (7-3), and Sharna Godfrey (8-3) would all score to round out the third period, with Godfrey’s goal giving her three points on the day (2G, 1A). The Sirens emerged victorious from the opening game of the season.
Final score: Sydney Sirens def. Brisbane Lightning 8-3
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A nice and early start on Sunday was upon us with puck drop taking place at 8:26am in the second half of this double header weekend between the Sirens and the Lightning. It was a more disciplined game between the two sides, with only three penalties taking place compared to 14 the day before.
The Lightning would open the scoring, as Georgia Watts scored her second of the weekend. Sarah Edney would level the scores just over a minute later to make it her second too.
Brisbane would retake the lead through Lindsey Kiliwnik with 3:50 remaining in the first, before Edney would get her second of the day. Robin Ketcheson scored her third of the weekend to send the Sirens into the break with a 3-2 lead.
That lead would be cut to one just 15 seconds after the resumption of play, as Sharnita Crompton would find the net. It wasn’t long before Katrina Rapchuk would give the Lightning another lead with 8:26 to go in the third to make it 4-3.
With time running out in the third period, both sides looked likely to split the weekend with one win apiece.
Edney would cap off her fantastic weekend with a goal to make it a hat trick. She levelled scores at 4-4 and added an assist on Sharna Godfrey’s game winner with 33 seconds remaining to see the Sirens run out 5-4 winners to sweep the weekend.
Final score: Sydney Sirens def. Brisbane Lightning 5-4
Stars of the weekend
The two clear stars of the weekend, racking up six points each, were Sarah Edney (4G, 2A) and Sharna Godfrey (3G, 3A). They got the Sirens en route to those two victories, kicking off the season in fantastic fashion for the defending league champions.
The Brisbane Lightning will be back in action hosting the Perth Inferno from November 12-13, with the Adelaide Rush and Melbourne Ice facing off in Adelaide on the same days in week two. The Sirens get the week off as the odd-team out before traveling to Perth to face the Inferno on November 19-20 as the sole games in week three.
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