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Queen’s women win OUA hockey title

March 2, 2013

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

It might be a stretch to say a terrible performance in the opening game of the Ontario University Athletics playoffs was ultimately the cause that led to the effect of winning a championship, but it’s likely not mere coincidence, either.

Perhaps more precisely the sequence of events simply personifies the character of the Queen’s Golden Gaels women’s hockey team.

“They have a genuine belief in their own ability to bounce back and not let things bother them too much,” Gaels coach Matt Holmberg said Friday night, after his team defeated the Western Mustangs 5-4 at the Memorial Centre.

“That’s a real testament to the veterans and the character in the room.”

The victory gave the Gaels a 2-0 win in the best-of-three conference final, and a date in next week’s national championship tournament in Toronto. It’s Queen’s second OUA championship in three years.

The prospect of that happening appeared unlikely after Queen’s dropped a 6-1 decision at Windsor three weeks ago. The Gaels, the seventh-ranked team in the land at the time, were eight games better than the Lancers during the regular year, winning all three times the teams met.

In those three games combined, Queen’s hadn’t allowed Windsor to score six times but on this night the Gaels were down 6-0 after two periods, playing like a team with one foot out of the playoffs and the other on a banana peel.

“We had a good team talk in between the second and third periods of that game and said, ‘You know what? Let’s win this period and hopefully we’ll get some positives from that,’” Holmberg said.

“We won the period 1-0 and outshot Windsor 15-6. (After) two periods of, OK, this is not playoff hockey … they responded with that third period and they just carried that momentum along.”

Indeed, the Gaels have not lost since. They came home to beat Windsor twice, ousted Guelph in two straight and dispatched Western the same way.

“We didn’t deserve to win that game and we knew that,” Gaels captain Kristin Smith said of the Windsor defeat. “The biggest test for us was how we were going to react to that. We came back home and we came out flying and we pulled off a great win. We carried that momentum for the rest of the playoffs.

“We really stayed positive. We weren’t going to start finger-pointing. That’s easy for teams to do but that’s not what we’re about. We know we’re a good team. We knew we would fight back. We weren’t worried.”

Before a crowd of about 500 Friday night, the Gaels spotted Western a goal before scoring two goals less than two minutes apart in the middle of the first period. Leading 2-1 going into the second, Queen’s scored twice in the first three minutes to go up 4-1 and it appeared the game was about to become a rout.

Instead, the Mustangs exposed what was perhaps the Gaels’ only weakness: scoring on successive power plays before the period was half over to cut the gap to a single goal.

Taryn Pilon scored at 2:55 of the third period to restore Queen’s two-goal lead. Another power-play goal — Western was 3-for-3 with the player advantage — with five and a half minutes remaining lifted the Mustangs to within a goal once more.

Western pulled its goaltender after a timeout with 1:58 to play but couldn’t score the equalizer.

“I felt 5-on-5 we played very, very well,” Holmberg said. “We forechecked well 5-on-5 and did a good job getting the puck to the net.”

It was suggested the 4-1 lead may have come too easily.

“It sort of felt that way,” Holmberg said. “We were certainly playing well and then they took advantage of those two power plays. Those two goals snapped us back to reality, I think, and we had to grit it out in the third.”

Smith said her team was full value for the three-goal cushion.

“We definitely worked for that,” she said. “They put in a new goalie (to start the second period). We wanted to pepper her right away and it worked out for us, but we knew it wasn’t going to be that easy for the rest of the game.”

Danielle Girard, Smith, Brittany McHaffie, Courtenay Jackson and Pilon, with her third goal of the series, scored for Queen’s. Stacey Scott had two goals and an assist for Western, which got its other goals from Cassidy Gosling and Kaitlin Gosling.

The Gaels won despite Western keeping Morgan McHaffie, the playoffs’ leading scorer with four goals and 11 points in five games, off the scoresheet.

“It was a real depth win,” Holmberg said.

“We have a short roster,” Smith said, “so we know we need every single player on their game to win any game and we knew it was going to take everyone to win a championship. Playing with a small roster you really can’t have anyone sitting out.”

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One Comment
  1. Yeah Claude!

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