A puck being dropped during an AWIHL game for the 2022/23 season. (Photo: Pic by Wulos/Sydney Sirens Facebook)

The Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League has returned from its Christmas holiday break as the best Australia has to offer laces up their boots for more hard-hitting action.

It doesn’t get any bigger than the two elite teams of the AWIHL in the Melbourne Ice and Sydney Sirens, who will play a doubleheader weekend at O’Brien Icehouse Arena. It’s a top-of-the-table matchup (Ice 1st, Sirens 2nd) in front of what should be a strong Melbourne crowd.

Ahead of the matchup, The Inner Sanctum looks at five talking points that will make this doubleheader fixture so enticing come the opening puck drop.

1st v 2nd battle it out

Melbourne and Sydney have been the standout teams in the early part of the 2022/23 season. Melbourne comes into the weekend having not lost a game, winning its first six games and playing a strong two-way game.

Sydney sits just below Melbourne and has had another strong campaign winning four of its eight games while also claiming two overtime wins.

The Sirens are the defending champions, but the Ice has put together an impressive roster and they will be looking to stamp themselves as championship contenders.

Danielle Butler in action for the Melbourne Ice during the 2022/23 AWIHL season. (Photo: Phil Taylor Photographic)

Godfrey vs Butler

Two out-and-out stars of the competition and all eyes are going to be on these point-scoring powerhouses. Both sit on 16 points across the season with Danielle Butler (11 goals, five assists) and Sharna Godfrey (six goals, 10 assists) highlighting their dominance in the AWIHL this season.

With a knack for goal, playmaking ability, and sharp skating that enable them to get into dangerous areas, it is going to be must-watch ice hockey under the Saturday night Melbourne lights.

Veteran vs Young Gun

One of the key parts of the weekend’s games will come in the form of the goaltender dual at each end of the ice.

The Sirens will have Turkish international Sera Dogramaci between the pipes who is approaching 100 AWIHL games and has a .903 save percentage and four wins. Melbourne Ice will shift to young rising star Makayla Peers who has been outstanding so far this season with three wins and a .965 save percentage.

It’s a contrast in career positions as veteran Dogramaci will come up against Peers who is looking to stake her own claim in the league as the future of the competition.

Will the youngster be able to steal the limelight? Or will the experience of Dogramaci shine through?

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10 years of dominance

Over the past decade, there have been two teams who have lifted the Joan McKowen Memorial Trophy and that’s been either Melbourne Ice or Sydney Sirens. The Sirens are the most recent champions, although the Ice has lifted the trophy six times since the 2012/13 season.

It comes as no surprise that the current AWIHL season has both teams once again leading the pack and looking like the teams to beat. It’s the first meeting between the two teams this campaign and it could be a showcase of the playoffs come mid-March.

Sydney Sirens captain Sarah Edney in action at a home game this season. (Photo: Pic by Wulos/Sydney Sirens Facebook)

The Edney factor

We couldn’t do a list like this without mentioning one of the stars of the AWIHL and arguably the league’s best player Sarah Edney. The Mississauga native has set the league alight since arriving from the Buffalo Beauts for the 2019/20 season.

Edney has 11 points (seven goals, four assists) from only four games played this season, she will be a key player in this top-of-the-table clash and will be one the Sirens will look upon to give them the edge over the Ice and inflict them with their first loss of the season.

The Melbourne Ice and Sydney Siren’s faceoff on Saturday, January 14th at 5pm and Sunday 15th at 1:30 pm.

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