CIS finals: game two preview

ANTIGONISH, NS— After a 1-0 loss to the Alberta Pandas in their opening game of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) finals, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey team now find themselves in a must-win game versus the St. F.X. X-Women tonight at 7:30. Penalty trouble and a sheer lack of offence sank the Hawks against the Pandas, and now with less than 24 hours of rest, they will have to come back ready to take down the host X-Women in their first game of the tournament in front of what is sure to be an electric home crowd at the Keating Millennium Centre.

The X-Women may come into the national championship as the fifth seed out of six teams, however, as the sixth-ranked Montreal Carabins showed yesterday by taking two-time defending gold medallists the McGill Martlets to overtime, these teams are the best of the best and there isn’t much of a gap between them. St. F.X. was the runner up in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship, only losing two games in the regular season before being upset in the post-season by eventual AUS champions, the St. Mary’s Huskies.

Much like the Hawks, the X-Women don’t rely on one or two players to provide the bulk of their offence, as their team points leader Jessica Shanahan finished with 28 points with four players within less than 10 points of her. The X-Women also received good offensive production from their defenders, with four of their six blueliners finishing in the top six in scoring among AUS defencemen.

As good as the X-Women’s defencemen were at scoring goals, they were even better at preventing them, as they allowed the fewest shots per game in the AUS, leading to goalie Katie Harvieux posting the fifth-best goals against average in the country at 1.31.

Facing a goalie who’s not used to seeing a lot of work, the Hawks will need to focus on simplifying their offence, getting pucks to the net and looking for rebounds, something they were unable to do in the opener against Alberta.

A large part of the Hawks’ lack of offence in game one, can be attributed to the amount of time they spent in the penalty box. They took five penalties in the first period, and were only able to muster a single shot. In the second, they managed to stay out of the box, and exploded for 13 of their 17 total shots.

Overall, the key to this game will be how quickly a team that is not used to losing can rebound from a defeat. The Hawks only lost one game this year -their regular season finale versus Windsor- and in that case, they had 10 days to absorb the loss and learn from it. Now, with less than 24 hours to rest, the Hawks must come back and be ready to win a do-or-die game.

Even if the Hawks are able to rebound and claim a victory, simply winning this game won’t be enough to get them back in gold medal contention. Due to tiebreakers, Laurier needs to beat St. F.X. by at least two goals and then hope that the X-Women upset the Pandas tomorrow.