18/04/2024

Melbourne Ice players in action during the 2022/23 AWIHL season. (Photo: Sticks and Stones Photography)

The perfect start continued for the Melbourne Ice as it defeated the Adelaide Rush in back-to-back games across a double header weekend in the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League.

Melbourne would prove too strong for the Adelaide outfit in what was a tight contest across both games winning 4-1 and 4-3 to keep their perfect 4-0 record to start the season.

It was a return schedule for the two teams after opening up their campaigns in Adelaide on November 12 & 13 where the Ice would score 14 goals across two games to run out convincing winners in both contests.

“I think they had a score to settle so at the end of the day I told the players that you really shouldn’t take them for granted because they are going to come here and they are going to want to at least split the weekend,” Melbourne Ice head coach Rod Johns told The Inner Sanctum.

“So, they gave us a run for our money in the first period and we actually had to stayed focused on what was going on.”

The first period would see a strong start by the Rush who would work hard on the forecheck pressuring the Ice where they would pin them into their own end.

Adelaide was looking to take away space and passing lanes out on the ice, making things difficult for the Ice who had to withstand some early pressure.

“That was one of the things we talked about between the two periods is that we really need to be more disciplined,” Johns continued.

“Control the play better and clear the zone far better than what we did we were very lucky actually.”

An even contest at times the Ice would find a break throughout the matches when some pieces of brilliance from import Danielle Butler, who was able to find that extra gear and small spaces to exploit the Rush defence.

Butler had to adjust her game with her normal line partner Kristelle Van Der Wolf not playing but that didn’t seem to trouble the dashing forward who was able to continue to contribute with three goals across the weekend.

“She is one all-round good player I think you and I have talked about that before,” Johns said.

“She can skate, she’s got a great hand, she’s got a good shot and she can actually think what she is doing.

“You got to remember today she wasn’t playing with Kristelle [Van Der Wolf] so that makes a difference and she had to actually adjust what was going on and play with Amelia [Grigaliunas].

“And Amelia had to adjust to play with her and I think at the start she was probably trying to do a lot of things herself without sharing the load, after I talked to her a little bit I thought that they played better as the game went along.”

While the offensive power of the Ice is certainly a highlight and one of the strongest in the AWIHL, their ability to defend and grind out important moments of games is also impressive.

At time the Ice found themselves on multiple back-to-back powerplays and at one stage were looking down the barrel on a 5-3 situation. However, showcasing their terrific defensive structure they were able to nullify the Rush and not concede on the penalty kill.

“The forwards get a lot of the accolades, but you know the defence doesn’t get enough,” Johns continued.

“I think our defence is pretty solid all round so we are very fortunate that we have eight defensive players and six of them are well established, the other two are learning so we are lucky like that.”

One of the most promising talents and performances for the Ice was the amazing goaltending between the pipes from Mikayla Peers, who was rock solid denying the Rush on multiple occasions.

Peers was able to bail out the Ice when they needed her most, coming up with crucial saves when the Rush looked certain to score and were pressing hard at the Ice net.

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“She’s a good kid, she’s very coachable and we are very fortunate that we have got Bryan Mackenzie as the goalie coach,” Johns said.

“He has done a lot with the three goalies that we have, and I think they have benefited from him being around.

“And she certainly played well today, as she played well in Adelaide too.”

Melbourne will round out the year with a home double header fixture against the Brisbane Lightning on December 17 & 18 at O’Brien Icehouse Arena.

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