Adelaide Rush players celebrate after scoring a goal against the Melbourne Ice. (Photo: Sticks and Stones Photography)

The Adelaide Rush is still searching for their elusive first Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League win for season 2022/23, unable to get past two of the best teams in the competition in the opening two months of the season.

With losses to the Melbourne Ice and Sydney Sirens, it has been a tough start to the Rush’s campaign, but all is not lost with positive performances that are continuing to build from period to period during each match.

“I think it’s not reflective of how we have been playing,” Rush head coach Joey MacDougall told The Inner Sanctum.

“We have moments of greatness; we can string together a few good shifts and we get our opportunities.

“It just feels like we are not getting some of the bounces we work hard to get, but at the same time we feel like we played with Melbourne for most of the game.”

Progress from the group is evident as the Rush are able to back up games across double header weekends on the road against the top two teams in the league.

Learning from the previous three periods the nights before and looking to implement the game plan, they will hope they can get their first win of the season heading into 2023.

“Even last weekend we felt that we did a good job against Sydney, a few breakdowns, but to be able to bounce back from nine nothing and then play to a 3-1 game in Sydney last weekend,” MacDougall said.

“And come in here and be 4-1 after a 7-0 loss the last time we played Melbourne, we are definitely moving in the right direction.”

Adelaide Rush player Lalia Giveen in action against the Melbourne Ice. (Photo: Stick and Stones Photography)

Adelaide is filled with young talent across its forward and defensive lines, but it is priding itself on work ethic and creating good habits on the ice.

Never more present than their recent trip to Melbourne where the Rush was able to pin the Ice into their own zone, and really build pressure off a strong forechecking game.

“That’s what we always want to be doing we want to be strong defensively,” MacDougall continued.

“Take away their offensive opportunities, the more you can force to the outside and keep away from the danger areas in the middle of the ice the easier it is.

“I think for the most part in this game we did a good job of doing that and I think if ask any of the Melbourne players they know that they really had to work to get their goals tonight.”

With young stars Torie Cybulski and Lalia Giveen, alongside recently selected U18 Australian players Madison Smith and Elana Holub, the Rush looks set for a strong decade of hockey if they all stay together.

Looking at the Rush roster you could be mistaken for thinking the club is going through a rebuilding phase, but it isn’t necessarily a long-term plan and wasn’t the main driver when piecing together the team this season.

“We haven’t really looked at that, we just kind of went with what we have coming out for tryouts,” MacDougall said.

“We noticed there are a lot of these junior girls who have played a little bit of nationals and they have done well in the leagues that they were playing in back in Adelaide.

“We felt that there were a few players on the fringe and who do we go with, do we go with some younger ones and develop them and have them ready for the next season?

“I don’t think we have looked at it as a rebuilding season, but we have given opportunities to these younger players who so far have done far better than we thought they were going to do this early on in the season.

“We are happy with our selections; we are looking for them to get better every game and so far, they have been able to show that to us.”

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Impressive for the Rush this season has been young goaltender Smith, who has been a solid performer between the pipes and has performed extremely well given the number of shots against she has faced.

It’s this strong early season form that has helped Smith gain selection for the U18 Australian team which will travel to Dumfries, Scotland for the Division II World Championships in January.

“Maddy [Smith] has been unreal and even for her to go into a game cold last weekend,” MacDougall continued.

“And then to come back and play as well as she did on Sunday, for somebody so young to be able to bounce back like that shows a lot of positives for what’s to come.

“I think she has been given a great opportunity here to be our number one goalie and she hasn’t shown us any reason why we should doubt her and her abilities at the moment.”

Adelaide returns to action on January 7th and 8th when it welcomes the Perth Inferno to IceArenA in Adelaide.

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