Connelly lifts Hawks past Badgers and into semifinals

St. CATHARINES, Ont. – The road is set as the Wilfrid Laurier women’s hockey team clinched their Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) quarterfinal series against the Brock Badgers Saturday night.

In a physical meeting between the eighth-seeded Badgers and the No.1 ranked Golden Hawks, Laurier swept the series two games to none in a 5-1 contest.

Blair Connelly would score two goals including the game winner in the match while Erika Thunder recorded the victory with 16 saves.

With the win, Laurier moves on to face the seventh-seeded Windsor Lancers who upset the second-ranked Guelph Gryphons Saturday night, capturing their series in two games.

“Obviously it feels great [to win]. It feels good to finally clinch the series,” Connelly said after the celebration. “[Brock] always gives us a tough battle and they’re a really fast, high-tempo team so we knew we just had to capitalize on every chance we had near the net.”

Laurier would open up the scoring at the end of the first when Caitlin Muirhead would beat Badgers goaltender Emily Kelly to put the Hawks up 1-0 after one.

In the second, Connelly would find nothing but the back of the net as she sent a beautiful shot past Kelly to push the lead to two.

With just over five minutes left in the second, Brock forward Hailey Webb would pick up a rebound from a scramble and feed Katie Howlett who would beat Thunder to split the lead.

In the final frame, the Golden Hawks rallied and scored three unanswered goals in the span of three and a half minutes.

Less than three minutes in, Devon Skeats would pick up the puck and fly down the ice on a breakaway and beat Kelly top corner to put the Hawks back up by two.

Just a minute later, Haley Baxter would go top shelf off a feed from captain Abby Rainsberry to push the lead to three.

Thunder would come up big on a couple saves before Connelly would round out the scoring with a goal, assisted by Fiona Lester and Laura Brooker.

Coach Rick Osborne reflected on the game and the style of play that Connelly and Skeats have produced.

“[Connelly] is really solid. Our defense have been involved in the offense all season long and will continue to be during the playoffs,” he said. “I was proud of the way we battled on the road in a smaller rink with a team that was really fired up. I’d say most of our kids are getting their playoff face on right now.”

Laurier now looks forward as they will play Windsor in the semifinals on Wednesday.

“[Windsor is] very aggressive and play with a lot of energy,” Connelly said. “They play with a lot of speed and we just have to make sure we set the pace early and stay disciplined and stick to our game plan.”

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