Four teams get set to battle it out for the Joan McKowen Trophy. (Images via Facebook/Melbourne Ice; Sydney Sirens; Brisbane Lightning; Perth Inferno. Design: Will Cuckson)

After 231 goals and five months of gruelling ice hockey from coast to coast across Australia, there are four teams left standing as the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League (AWIHL) finals return to compete for the Joan McKowen Trophy for the first time since 2019.

A tight 2022/23 season would see the fourth and last finals spots up for grabs as it all came down to the last weekend of the AWIHL schedule where the Melbourne Ice, Sydney Sirens, Brisbane Lightning, and Perth Inferno all booked their place in the postseason.

Across the AWIHL season, we would see amazing ice hockey, surprise upsets, dominant performances, and overtime thrillers between all five teams in the competition. It now comes down to a two-day finals weekend at O’Brien Icehouse Arena in Melbourne to determine the 2022/23 AWIHL champions.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at some of the key players across all four remaining teams.

Melbourne Ice

Danielle Butler

It is no surprise when you talk about the Ice that Danielle Butler’s name is at the top of the list.

Bursting onto the scene this season, Butler has been a driving force for the Melbourne outfit. With 23 points (15 goals, eight assists) the ability for Butler to pop up when the Ice need her has been important.

A strong skater and someone who knows where to be and when to be there, to stop the Ice at their home rink this finals series teams will need to limit the output of the league’s third-best scorer.

Makayla Peers

A rising goaltender star of the AWIHL, Peers has been terrific all season for the Ice in between the pipes finishing the season with a save percentage of .936 and a goals-against average of 1.56.

Peers has clearly been the best goalie throughout the 2022/23 season and at 18 years old the Ice will be hoping that the youngster won’t be overawed with what will come from finals pressure.

Sydney Sirens

Stephanie Newmark

A fresh player to the AWIHL Newmark has been outstanding for the Sirens all season with 13 points (seven goals, six assists) from eight games played.

Arguably the most important player on the Sydney roster Newmark’s ability to control the blueline with great positioning and ability to distribute the puck has been vital.

If Newmark can hit the scoresheet throughout this finals campaign it will go a long way to seeing Sydney secure back-to-back titles.

Sera Dogramaci

The 39-year-old veteran goaltender will be hanging up the pads following this AWIHL season and what better way to go out than to be crowned champions once again.

Putting in another big workload this season with a save percentage of .915 and a goals-against average of 2.87, Dogramaci hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

With the ability to steal games of ice hockey and make the unmakeable save, the Sirens will be hoping for Dogramaci to once again rise to the occasion and guide them to the holy grail.

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Brisbane Lightning

Imogen Perry

When we talk about the future of goaltending in the AWIHL, Perry is a name that goes straight to the top of the list.

Having another outstanding season for the Lightning with a save percentage of .907 and a goals-against average of 2.81, Perry has been superb yet again for the Brisbane team.

Perry is coming off a pair of wins in her last two starts which included a strong performance against the Melbourne Ice. The Lightning will be hoping Perry can go lights out and shut the door in their semi-final against the Sydney Sirens and advance to the final.

Lindsay Kiliwnik

The Brisbane forward while not putting up massive numbers this season compared to others in the AWIHL has been able to control and sometimes dominate games for the Lightning finishing with nine points (six goals, three assists) this season.

A key for Kiliwnik, however, has been the ability to stay out of the penalty box, giving up only two penalty minutes this will be important during the finals with intensity lifting as the Lightning look to take care of a strong Sirens team.

Perth Inferno

Elizabeth Scala

The Perth Inferno forward has been on a heater this season with 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) and has ramped it up to close out the regular season.

Eight points came from the Inferno’s final three games including a two-goal game leading Perth to a win over the league-leading Melbourne Ice.

The Inferno will face the Ice in the first semi-final and Scala will be an important part if they are to cause a major finals upset.

Michelle Clark-Crumpton

One of the greats of Australian ice hockey and once again putting in a power of work during the AWIHL season, Clark-Crumpton finished second on the scoring leaders chart with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) to help guide the Inferno into a finals position.

The 37-year-old is coming off a strong Australian national women’s team performance in South Africa and has shown no signs of slowing down. Clark-Crumpton will be an important cog in the Inferno wheel if they are to go all the way and claim the club’s first Joan McKowen Trophy.

The first semi-final between Melbourne Ice and Perth Inferno kicks off the finals weekend on Saturday, March 18 with puck drop at 2:30pm from O’Brien Icehouse Arena, Docklands.

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