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Queen’s women one win away from title

February 28, 2013
CLAUDE SCILLEYUniversity notebook

CLAUDE SCILLEY
University notebook

Queen’s Golden Gaels will have a chance to win their second Ontario University Athletics women’s hockey championship in three years Friday night when they host the Western Mustangs at the Memorial Centre. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

With Taryn Pilon scoring two goals and Karissa Savage making 26 saves, the Gaels defeated Western 4-0 in London Wednesday in the first game of the best-of-three conference final.

Pilon opened scoring with the only goal of the first period and her second goal, in the second minute of the third period, gave the Gaels a 3-0 lead.

The Gaels spent the entire season in the national Top 10. Ranked as high as No. 4 (for two weeks) they were lower than No. 7 only once. They ended the regular schedule inauspiciously, however, losing three of their last seven games, before starting the playoffs with a 6-1 loss to Windsor.

That seemed to catch the team’s attention. Queen’s has now won five playoff games in a row, allowing just six goals in the process, eliminating Windsor and then second-place Guelph.

Someone has pitched a shutout in five of Western’s six post-season games, including each of the last four. They traded 2-0 decisions with Wilfrid Laurier before ousting the regular-season champion Golden Hawks 1-0 in the deciding game of their semifinal.

Queen’s won four of the first eight Ontario women’s hockey championships through 1979, then not again until 2011. That’s the only time since 2003 that Laurier didn’t win the Judy McCaw Memorial Cup.

Morgan and Brittany McHaffie, the 23-year-old twin sisters from Guelph, have been terrific during the playoffs for Queen’s. Morgan, who didn’t play in the loss at Windsor, has four goals and 11 points in five games and Brittany has three goals and nine points in six games to rank 1-2 among post-season leaders.

If a third game in the series is needed it will be played Sunday afternoon at 3:30 at the Memorial Centre. The winner will advance to the national championship tournament, March 7-10 at Toronto.

Evidently the CIS can’t stand prosperity. After two successful years of twinning the Vanier Cup football game with the Grey Cup, the deep thinkers at the CIS have awarded the 2013 national championship game to Laval.

Not that Laval is a poor host. The Vanier Cup was played there in 2009-10, with 18,628 on hand when Queen’s beat Calgary in 2009 and 16,237 there when Laval beat Calgary the following year.

(Interesting, isn’t it, that 2,400 more tickets were sold to watch Queen’s than the next year, when the home team was actually in the game; that should tell us something about the loyalty of the football faithful).

For the last two Vaniers, played on the Friday night of Grey Cup weekend, 24,935 tickets were sold at B.C. Place in 2011 and a record 37,098 paid to watch last year’s game at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

This fall the Grey Cup will be played in Regina.

“We truly enjoyed our partnership with the CFL and the Grey Cup Festival. However, due to logistical challenges, a joint venture in Regina next fall was not possible,” CIS president Leo MacPherson said in a release, without elaborating.

Perhaps the ‘logistical challenges’ refer to the unlikely prospect of selling huge numbers of advance tickets for a game at night in November on the Prairies that doesn’t promise to have a Saskatchewan team in it.

Fan support for Laval games is unparalleled in Canada. The Rouge et Or averaged 14,257 paid for six games in 2012. However, the CIS needs to examine the ticket debacle that arose in 2009, when the allocation for visitors, 300 tickets, was consumed by members of the Queen’s playing and coaching ranks. Since the game had been sold out for weeks, literally thousands of Queen’s supporters faced the prospect of buying on the aftermarket (i.e., from scalpers) or purchasing hastily printed tickets to stand on the track surrounding the field.

It’s a dilemma for the CIS, for which an advance sellout for a championship event is about as scarce as bears in the winter. How can you tell a host organization not to sell tickets for which it has eager buyers? Besides, quite frankly, 300 tickets is plenty for most university teams in Canada outside a 200-kilometre radius of the host city.

With the possible exception of Laval itself, there are no fans in Canada who travel as well as Queen’s fans. This will sound elitist, but perhaps the truly practical thing to do is withhold a few thousand tickets until Queen’s is eliminated from the playoffs.

In a place like Quebec City, those tickets will sell regardless of when they go on the market. What would be the harm?

Riley Whitlock of the Queen’s Golden Gaels is the OUA East nominee for the Randy Gregg award. Named for the former University of Alberta medical student, Canadian Olympic hockey player and Edmonton Oiler, the award is presented to the player who best exhibits outstanding achievement in hockey, academics and community involvement.

Whitlock, a fifth-year law student from Calgary, played more than 1,400 minutes in the Gaels’ goal and made the second-most saves in the CIS this season. Away from the arena he volunteers his time with several youth hockey programs as well as working with Grade 3 students at Frontenac Public School.

This is the fourth year a Kingston player has been his conference’s nominee for the Gregg award. Jon Lawrence of Queen’s was selected the last two years and Jeffrey Oke of Royal Military College had his name put forward in 2010. Chris Glover is the only Queen’s player to have won the award. He was studying medicine when he received the prize in 1993.

Notebook: RMC goaltender Paul Dorsey has been named to the OUA East division all-rookie hockey team. Dorsey, from Ottawa, played in 25 games for the Paladins and faced more shots than any goalie in the league this year. He had a 3.98 goals-against average — but a .901 save percentage — and claimed all three victories for a team that finished 3-25. … Former Kingston Frontenac Ben Shutron will be playing for the Atlantic university hockey title this weekend as his New Brunswick Reds face Saint Mary’s in a best-of-three final. Shutron had four goals and 15 points in 28 regular-season games and he had two assists in a four-game semifinal victory over Prince Edward Island. The Panthers had a pair of Kingston-connected players in their lineup. Freshman Jordan Mayer had seven goals and 14 points in 23 games in the regular year and two goals in the playoffs, including his team’s only goal in the series-ending 5-1 defeat. Former Frontenacs goaltender Mavric Parks, after a 1-8 regular season, gained the Panthers’ only victory in the UNB series. … After a year as interim field boss, Joe Paopao has been handed the football coaching job at Waterloo. With Paopao at the helm, the Warriors were 2-6 in 2012, two years after that program was suspended for a season when widespread drug use was discovered among players. … Paopao had a 12-year career in the Canadian Football League, and he’s a member of both the B.C. Lions Wall of Fame and the sports Hall of Fame at his alma mater, Long Beach State. He’s been on the Warriors coaching staff since 2007.

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