Among the premier scorers of the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League (AWIHL), Michelle Clark-Crumpton brings a significant star power. Skating for the Perth Inferno, earning a place as one of the club’s all-time greats, her combination of consistency and reliability make her a highly valued asset and fan favourite. Off the ice, Clark-Crumpton enjoys a career in quantitative and qualitative research, with numerous specialties including brand tracking, customer satisfaction studies and stakeholder research.
Raised north of Toronto in York Region, Clark-Crumpton belongs to a proud legacy of Canadians excelling on the ice down under. Other stars have included Laurier Golden Hawks alumni Liz Knox, an elite goaltender whose accomplished career included one season with the Melbourne Ice. Additionally, Carleton Ravens blueliner Erin Beaver enjoyed a championship with the Sydney Sirens, their first in franchise history. Worth noting, sisters Sarah and Nadine Edney from Mississauga, Ontario, both wore the Sirens jersey as teammates.
Having starred at the university level with the OUA’s Queen’s Golden Gaels, Clark-Crumpton was one of two alums from the Kingston, Ontario university to play in the AWIHL during 22-23. Worth noting, Robin Ketcheson, a graduate from 2022, skated for the Sydney Sirens in her rookie season, enjoying the jubilation of the league championship.
Clark-Crumpton, who skated for Queens from 2003-07 did not expect an opportunity to play professionally beyond graduation. Relocating to Australia, the game appeared to be in the rear view mirror, preparing for a new life in a different part of the world. Although there would be a competitive gap of several years, the game rediscovered her, providing a new chapter that proved as rejuvenating as exciting.
“I honestly never expected to play hockey in Australia. I moved here as a backpacker after graduating from Queen’s University, where I played varsity hockey. I thought that was the end of my playing days, other than maybe future beer league hockey if I moved back to Canada.
After a couple years living here in Perth, I started going to public skating at what was then the only rink here. I learned there was a local rec league. So I signed up for my first season and got all my gear over here. It was a men’s league and I think there were only four teams and one non-contact division at the time. I had a lot of fun getting back on the ice and starting getting my skills back.”
Content with the opportunity to play locally, the onset of the AWIHL allowed Clark-Crumpton the opportunity to add a new chapter to her hockey odyssey. Demonstrating how talent cannot be hidden, the Brisbane Goannas recruited Clark-Crumpton, eager to add her strong skill set..
Lacing up her skates for the 2012-13 season, returning to competition involved an incredible dedication off the ice. As the distance from Perth to Brisbane represented a tremendous distance of 4,330 kilometers, Clark-Crumpton frequently travelled across the country in order to play.
Despite the demanding travel schedule, Clark-Crumpton shone brightly, finishing as the Goannas leading scorer. Amassing an exceptional 29 points in 11 games played, the only other skater to reach double digits that season was Natasha Farrier.
Recording a point in every game of the 2012-13 season, Clark-Crumpton scored twice in her AWIHL debut, an 8-4 loss on home ice versus the North Star Sirens on November 3. Coincidentally, the Sirens factored into another milestone that season. Prevailing by a 7-3 mark on February 9, a season high six points resulted in three goals and three assists. As a side note, she assisted on the game winning goal, scored by Jemma Wallace.
“After a couple of local seasons, somehow the word got out to the coach for the Brisbane Goannas of the AWIHL (Tamra Jones at the time, who is now the U18 National Women’s team coach) that I could play hockey. So she contacted me to see if I wanted to play for them in the 2012-13 season. The AWIHL is our premier women’s league but Perth did not have an AWIHL team at the time. I said yes to the opportunity and am glad I did!
It was a tough season logistically – Brisbane is on the other side of the country from Perth (think Toronto to Vancouver distance wise). For my ‘home’ games, I would take the red-eye flight on Friday night around midnight and get to Brisbane at around 4:30am on Saturday. Afterwards, I would play Saturday afternoon. After a quick nap, play again on Sunday morning, then fly home Sunday night, to be back at work Monday morning. The things we do for hockey!
I had a lot of fun that season and it re-ignited my passion for the game. Unfortunately, the logistics were just too difficult to continue that schedule. Therefore, I stuck to playing in local Perth men’s leagues for a few more seasons until Perth got our own AWIHL team officially in 2018-19.”
Founded as a state team in 2016 for Ice Hockey Western Australia, competing in tournaments, the club gained entry into the AWIHL in 2018. Rechristened as the Perth inferno, adopting orange and purple as team colors, Clark-Crumpton emerged as the scoring leader in their inaugural season. Coincidentally, she amassed 29 points for 2018-19, the same total from her lone season with Brisbane.
Qualifying for the playoffs as an expansion team, the Inferno were triumphant in the third place game. Recording the first playoff hat trick in franchise history, Clark-Crumpton led the way in a 6-3 victory. Defeating Brisbane, the win provided Clark-Crumpton with a combination of history and full circle. As a side note, other Canadians to wear the Inferno jersey included Heather Hayduk, Sasha Irvine and current teammate Georgia McLellan, adding a sense of homecoming.
“It has been an unexpected but fun journey and it’s been amazing to see the growth of the game here since I started. There is now a women’s league in Perth and the skill in the AWIHL has improved so much. I am excited for the future of women’s hockey in Australia!”
As the last two AWIHL seasons were not held due to pandemic concerns, the return to the ice proved highly enjoyable for Clark-Crumpton. Continuing her proficient ways, the continued display of offensive wizardry positioned her as the second leading scorer in the AWIHL. Averaging slightly over 12 points a game, she trailed only teammate Elizabeth Scala in the league’s scoring race. Worth noting, both were the only skaters from the Inferno to record at least 20 points in the regular season.
Having gone without a point in only two regular season games, Clark-Crumpton recorded an astounding seven points in a weekend series versus the Sydney Sirens from November 19-20, 2022. The second game of the New Year resulted in her finest performance of the season. Facing off versus Adelaide on the road, the January 8 tilt saw Clark-Crumpton enjoy her only hat trick of the season. Along with a pair of assists, the five point outburst also extended her scoring streak to five games. Before season’s end, she enjoyed four more multi-point performances, pushing her career point total with the Inferno to an impressive 75.
Capturing the Inferno Forward of the Year Award, Clark-Crumpton also earned the honour in 2019. By season’s end, she added the bronze medal from the AWIHL playoffs, adding to a growing collection of hockey hardware. While such achievements carry tremendous meaning, the return to regular season play presented its own rewards.
“It was an honour to win that award and to have had a successful season. I had a lot of fun with the Inferno this year. It was our first AWIHL season after a two year hiatus due to Covid, so we were all excited to be playing again. Plus, it was our first AWIHL season with a new coach, Graham Hyde. He did a great job to build a great team culture and make us competitive.
We have a lot of great players, so it was an honour to get recognized as the top forward. My scoring success would not have been possible without my great teammates, particularly my linemate Elizabeth Scala, who led the league in scoring. We have been linemates for a few seasons now and seem to play really well together.”
The 22-23 season held highlights beyond the AWIHL. While Clark-Crumpton continued her legacy as one of the Inferno’s luminaries, reaching 75 career points with the club, the Stephanie Boxall National Championships saw her capture the scoring title with a tournament-high 16 points. Earning the Team MVP Award as a member of the Western Australia roster, her team crushed Victoria by an 11-0 mark to capture the gold medal.
Playing with Scala, their high scoring ways continued as Clark-Crumpton opened the scoring in the final, followed by Scala for an early 2-0 advantage. Both reciprocated by assisting on each other’s goals, setting the tone for one of the greatest performances in tournament history. Clark-Crumpton finished with four goals, also adding three assists for a phenomenal seven points, followed by Scala with six points and Molly Lukowiak providing three points.
Additionally, appearances with the Australian national team in 2022 and 2023 at the IIHF IIHF Women’s World Championships, Division II, Group B events cemented an exceptional legacy. Earning the silver medal at both, the 2022 edition, contested in Zagreb, Croatia saw Clark-Crumpton finish as the second leading scorer, trailing only Dilara Lokbas from Turkey. Recording at least one goal in every one of Australia’s wins during spanning the past two events, the final game of the 2023 Women’s Worlds in Cape Town, South Africa, saw Clark-Crumpton provide one of her most inspiring performances. Contributing a hat trick in a 5-2 victory versus archrival New Zealand, the Aussies trailed by a 2-0 mark after the first period.
As Sharna Godfrey trimmed the New Zealand lead with Australia’s first goal of the game, Clark-Crumpton scored twice in a span of six minutes for a 3-2 advantage. The third period saw Sara Simmons add her name to the scoresheet while Clark-Crumpton put the game out of the reach with her third goal of the game. With 29 career goals in Australia’s jersey, she sits atop the program for career goals scored.
“It has been an honour being part of the national team and also something I never expected. In my first IIHF tournament with the team in 2018 I just wanted to score one goal – that was the goal I set for myself. So I never expected this.
I have been lucky to find great chemistry with various linemates at each tournament. Ultimately, I just want my offensive contributions to help the team win, and I hope I can keep scoring to help make that happen. Winning another gold medal is my main goal.”
Providing the best of both worlds, the privilege of wearing Australia’s colors on the IIHF stage includes skating among numerous other luminaries from the Inferno. Sharing their hockey dreams together, a strong sense of team pride emanates. From the likes of Marina Nottle, also a former Brisbane player, and Sasha King, who finished tops in save percentage at the 2023 IIHF Women’s Worlds in South Africa, to elite blueliners Molly Lukowiak and Isla Malcolm, both graduate of the Australia Under-18 national team program, their collaborative efforts are helping put ice hockey on the map down under.
“Yes, it has been amazing! The Inferno girls that were on the national team this year (Marina Nottle, Isla Malcolm, Sasha King and Molly Lukowiak), I have been teammates with for many years now, even before the Inferno. Definitely, it was special to share the silver medal win at the IIHF world championships in Cape Town with them this year and to see them succeed. We had lots of fun and now share a lot of great memories from that experience.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated“