Alberta faces must-win vs. upstart Queen’s

Today at 4:00, the Queen’s Gaels women’s hockey team will get their first taste of national championship action in school history. And who should they have to face? Just the defending national champions who need a win — and most likely a lop-sided one — to keep their gold medal hopes alive.

The Alberta Pandas’ loss to the McGill Martlets yesterday put them severely behind the eight ball going forward in this quick tournament, where every game is crucial. The Pandas now need a big win and a McGill loss to Queen’s on Saturday in order to have a chance at repeating their national title.

However, the underdog Gaels, who rode into the tournament pulling off upsets against Laurier and Guelph are likely the hottest team at the tournament right now having qualified in such an emotional manner. They will look to continue to ride the goaltending of second-year Mel Dodd-Moher, who never surrendered more than two goals in the Gaels’ magical playoff run.

While the Gaels will be riding high on momentum, they may be low on energy. Every single one of their OUA playoff games went to at least one overtime, including three double-overtime game and a marathon game versus Guelph that needed six extra frames.

For the Pandas, they will have to get over their tournament opening loss to McGill quickly, however, there were positives the defending champs can pull from that game. Goalie Kanesa Shwetz stood tall in net stopping 28 of the 31 shots the star-studded Martlets threw at her, and there were even times when the Pandas seemed to be taking the play to the nation’s top team.

So it looks like today we’ll learn which is stronger; an upstart team riding momentum, or a team fighting to stay alive.