Hawks finish in fourth at CIS tourney
It was a team they were chomping at the bit to play, but a game they wanted nothing to do with.
And it all equated to the finest display of moxie that the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks could muster. Though, the end result was tragically the same as last year’s.
A fourth-place finish in the bronze-medal game against McGill at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s hockey championships concluded one of the most dominant seasons Laurier’s women on ice have ever experienced.
The No. 2 McGill Martlets were simply too strong, too skilled and too suffocating; vanquishing the Hawks 4-0 en route to their seventh straight medal at the tournament.
Every time Laurier and McGill have tangoed, and it hasn’t been often; the feistiness comes out in the usually machine-like disciplined Hawks.
“Every time we face McGill, there’s this fire in our stomachs,” said graduating captain Abby Rainsberry, who kept her emotions in check after the match. “I wouldn’t want to pick a better team to play than McGill in my last game.”
“McGill’s always been a physical game,” said Maureen Mommersteeg. “We kinda knew that was coming.”
Laurier had difficulty breaking through the Martlets’ fortress-like defense, one which held the Hawks to 22 shots, most of which were fired from the perimeter.
Martlets’ defenseman and Team Canada member Cathy Chartrand led the way for a McGill effort that featured virtually zero mistakes for the Waterloo team to capitalize on.
Any chances the Hawks could squeak out in the picture-perfect McGill lockdown were smothered by fellow Olympic veteran Charline Labonte.
“We tried to get to the net as best we could. Our main goal was to get more shots but the defense was good,” said the third-year defenseman Mommersteeg.
Hawks’ head coach Rick Osborne would have liked to have seen more consistency in the calls by the officials.
“I’m not criticizing the referees, it just seemed awfully odd that two of [McGill’s] players were constantly talking to them and it just seemed like 30 seconds later, we’d get some kind of penalty,” said the nine-year coaching veteran. “I did mention it to one of the supervisors between the second and third period.”
This tournament’s refereeing has come under fire before.
In last year’s competition, goals were taken away after participating teams scored.
This year featured calls that could have been made, were then left and the same plays would result in penalties later.
“It’s just frustrating,” said Osborne.
McGill was scoreless on five power-play opportunities, while Laurier went 0-2. The Hawks finished with six power-plays in three games.
Since their 5-4 shootout defeat to the Martlets in a 2011 holiday tournament, the No. 1 ranked Hawks wanted a shot at redemption against a team which has captured three of the four past CIS titles entering the 2012 tournament.
But it may have been too much to ask of first-year netminder, Erika Thunder.
“We didn’t want to start the season with a rookie goaltender,” said Osborne. “She did an outstanding job all season long and she was part of a real good defensive effort by the team, and I think it caught up to us at nationals. It was a combination of [Thunder] coming off an injury as well as the pressures of nationals, so [it was a] learning experience for her and we hope to have a little bit more depth at that position next year.”
Thunder showed flashes of brilliance as the tournament progressed including a terrific lateral glove save on a McGill odd-man rush and a splendid pad-save on a Martlets’ one-timer opportunity in the second period. She finished with 22 saves on 26 shots.
Now the Hawks will groom their Winnipeg-native investment between the pipes and expect to welcome another experienced netminder to complement Thunder.
“Erika will be part of a goaltending tandem [next year],” said Osborne after game two.
The Calgary Dinos took home the organization’s first-ever gold medal after their 5-1 thrashing of Montréal in the final. Hayley Wickenheiser had two goals and two assists and was named player of the game for the Dinos. It was Montréal’s first-ever medal.
The Hawks graduate Rainsberry, defenseman Alicia Martin and forward Katherine Shirriff. They expect around six new recruits for September.
With a team like the women’s hockey Hawks; consistently the best on campus, Osborne doesn’t have to look far for leadership.
“[Defenseman Fiona] Lester will be our captain,” said the coach. “[Fifth-year forward] Caitlin Muirhead will have an “A” on her shirt, so those two are cut from the same mould as Rainsy, Shirriff and the [leaders] we have now.”
And the team has an outside chance of “Rainsy” coming back.
“We’ll see,” said the captain. “Either way, the team’s going to be successful.”