The North Star Sirens, still smarting from a home ice loss the day before, came back to Hunter Ice Skating Stadium hungry for revenge. They seemed well poised for a bronze medal finish – they had not finished without a medal in the AWIHL finals before, plus they had the home ice advantage. Yet just the day before they had been defeated by the Brisbane Goannas on that home ice.
The Goannas had gone to challenge the Adrenaline for the second grand final spot, and were only narrowly defeated 6-5. This much improved team was standing between them and a bronze medal finish.
The Sirens turned up the aggression for this match, fighting hard to get and keep possession. They managed to force the Goannas into their end but shot after shot on the Goannas’ net went wide. The Goannas defence were as determined as ever, pushing back against the forwards just as hard. In net, Kristy Bruske stood firm to deny the Sirens when needed.
Despite the offensive push from the Sirens, the Goannas opened the scoring first as Michelle Clarke-Crumpton drew out and beat Dogramaci, the Sirens goaltender. Undeterred, the Sirens continued to struggle with the Goannas for possession and the play moved from end to end for most of the period. Eventually the Sirens perseverance paid off, as Anna Ruut evened the score at 8.05.
Lead by top pairing of Amelia Matheson and Sharna Godfrey the Sirens kept up their attack literally to the dying seconds of the period. After a barrage of shots Matheson slipped one past Bruske with just under 2 seconds to go. They ended the period with a 2-1 lead.
Both the goannas and the sirens stepped up the intensity in the second period and possession was equally shared between the two. The first half of the period remained scoreless, despite offensive rushes from both sides. As the pressure mounted both goalies made more and more dramatic saves, to the delight of the watching fans. In one memorable incident Dogramaci sprinted into a diving poke check well outside the crease. Not only did she succeed in knocking the puck off Farrier’s stick, the unexpected attack sent the star forward flying over the top of her, rendering her incapable of chasing her rebound.
It took an interference penalty to Melinda White to inspire the Goannas to up the competition. After some pressure from Sydney they managed to take advantage of a Sirens turnover to score shorthanded. Try as they might the Sirens could not break though the Goannas defence and the period ended tied 2-2.
The tone for the third period was set just thirty seconds in as Kelly Costa finished an offensive run to give the Goannas the lead. The Goannas’ endurance seemed to wear down the Sirens, and they began to take over puck possession. The sirens still managed to break into the Goannas’ end several times but they could not get any shots past the relentless goannas defence.
More than once the net was knocked off by a desperate Goanna trying to cut the Sirens off. Their determination paid off with an unassisted goal from Natasha Farrier, increasing their lead to 4-2. The Sirens found some order and finished the period with admirably aggressive play but they could not find the back of the net. Despite pulling Dogramaci for an extra forward, the rest of the period remained scoreless. The game ended with a 4-2 victory to the Goannas, awarding them the bronze medal.
The Brisbane Goannas have received their first medal in AWIHL history, having finished last in all previous seasons. This well-deserved finish comes after a season of steady improvement from a team whose members come from all over Australia, and are only able to meet on game days.
Despite their disappointment of their last place finish, the North Star Sirens were gracious in defeat, and as they watched the Goannas receive their medals, many with tears of joy, acknowledged how proud they were of the Goannas for achieving such a milestone.