Hawks fall in CIS women’s hockey opener

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EDMONTON, Alta. – Wilfrid Laurier women’s hockey goaltender Erika Thunder’s return from a knee sprain wasn’t as triumphant as her squad had hoped it would be.

In a shocking Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) tournament-opening loss, the No. 1 Golden Hawks suffered a devastating 6-5 collapse to the No. 6 University of Montreal Carabins.

Thunder went down during game one of the Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) final against the Western Mustangs and her first game back was as tumultuous as they come.

With 12 saves on 18 shots through the first two periods, Thunder looked as if her knee wasn’t bothering her, but the rust was just too much for the Winnipeg native against elite competition. She finished with 18 saves on 24 shots.

With the Hawks leading 3-1 late in the first period, the Carabins pulled their own shaky netminder, Elodie Rousseau-Sirois, who let in three goals on 10 shots.

The much more composed Rachel Ouellette replaced her and stopped 28 of 30.

Then the rout was on. Five unanswered goals by the Carabins sparked their second period of dominance.

Kim Deschenes scored twice and four goals by Montreal in that second frame got the Hawks in too deep a hole to climb out of.

“Our game plan was to throw everything at the net,” said Laurier head coach Rick Osborne. “And it was almost like a reversal. They threw everything they had at ours.”

“We didn’t expose their ‘D’ with our speed as much as we probably would have liked,” said WLU assistant captain Katherine Shirriff. “We’re all pretty disappointed seeing the number-one seed getting knocked off by the sixth seed …. We need to give ourselves a chance to go for the bronze or if not, the gold, if we get any luck that way.”

“The game plan was mostly defensive,” said Montreal head coach Isabelle Leclaire. “From what we had seen from Laurier, they’re a very fast team, very good skaters.”

The team from Quebec did just that. In only their third year of existence, Montreal is making its second-straight nationals appearance, and took away Laurier’s speed with clogged neutral zone coverage and punishing play along the boards.

Laurier was able to garner one power-play opportunity late in the game but it was too little too late. They didn’t capitalize and Montreal went 1-3 on their own man-advantage.

“I heard about it this week,” said Leclaire referring to Thunder’s return from injury. “So [exposing the injury] wasn’t part of our game plan. We hadn’t seen their goalies, except for when Thunder played McGill in December, we didn’t know anybody. We just played our game.”

Laurier would need the University of Prince Edward Island to defeat Montreal, and they need to defeat UPEI to have a chance at gold now.

Laurier mounted a comeback in the third, finding the net twice as Tammy Freiburger and Devon Skeats made it interesting with goals of their own.

Deschenes added two assists to go along with her two markers and Audrey Fortin, Maxie Plante, Josianne Legault and Ariane Barker scored for Montreal.

Caitlin Muirhead, Jessie Hurrell, and Shirriff replied for Laurier along with Freiburger and Skeats’ tallies.

“Everything that we were trying to do, they just did,” said Osborne. “They had far less shots, but they were good shots.”

And the book’s out on Thunder. Five of the Carabins’ six goals went high on the netminder.

“I thought about it,” said Osborne in reference to pulling Thunder during the game. “Just to re-focus her but every shot they got seemed dangerous. I was nervous of putting Hammy (backup netminder Rachel Hamilton) in there cold because it takes her a little bit of time …. I would have done it if our team had been playing a little bit better.”

And Osborne is undecided regarding tomorrow’s starter.

“I may go with Hamilton [against the University of Prince Edward Island],” he said. “But I liked how Thunder played near the end of the game, I may come back with her.”

“It’s not in our control now. We have to play hard tomorrow and see where the chips lie after that,” said the coach. “We’re going to have to hope for a three-way tie [in the pool between Laurier, Montreal and UPEI].”

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