Hawks head to OUA final

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With their varsity cohorts dropping like flies, Wilfrid Laurier women’s hockey has found themselves the last team standing (with the exception of women’s curling) in the 2012 Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) playoffs.

They’ve already pushed themselves farther than last year’s semi-finals loss to Queen’s.

But not without their scares.

A 1-0 loss in game one of their semi-finals matchup versus Windsor had the Hawks reeling after posting 43 shots on Windsor goaltender Julia Ouroumis.

But a convincing 4-1 victory in Windsor on Saturday afternoon paved the way for a winner-take-all contest on Sunday night.

And while most students were hypnotized by Angelina Jolie’s legs (for good or bad), or spellbound by the masterful oratory skills of Christopher Plummer and Meryl Streep during the Oscars, Laurier’s athletic finest went to work once again.

And they came away with a 3-1 win, propelled by Devon Skeats’ two-point effort, including notching the insurance marker 5:36 into the final frame that put her Hawks at ease the rest of the way, and vaulted them into the OUA championships.

And it’s become old hat for “Skeatsy” to bail out her mates when they sense an uncertainty in the final outcome.

“She does it every year during playoff time,” said Hawks’ head coach Rick Osborne. “I told Skeats before the game, ‘you need to use your quickness’.”

The energetic team jokester exposed the Windsor Lancers’ defence down low when she took the puck and drove it home on a wraparound with numerous Lancers all over the ice trying to catch the Whitby native.

“She was so quick, it was no contest,” said Osborne.

Skeats now has 11 goals in 16 playoff games during her three-year tenure at Laurier.

Those post-season numbers lead the team.

“The playoffs are just a whole different vibe,” said Skeats after Sunday’s win. “I feed off that vibe; every game I get really excited and I’m ready to go.”

And nowhere was her assessment more accurate than immediately after scoring on the wraparound.

Skeats slipped the puck by Ouroumis, slammed her stick on the ice, and was `embraced by her appreciative teammates.

“Pure excitement,” Skeats described it. “It was actually like a wave of relief.”

The Hawks can share in that sentiment as they’ve made it to the OUA finals for the first time since they won the provincial championship versus Guelph in 2010.

Their foe? Western.

The sixth-seeded Mustangs surprised the Toronto Varsity Blues and the York Lions on their way to the final, and they’ve played the Hawks close all year.

The Hawks swept the season series versus their rivals down the 401 with three wins resulting in scores of 2-1, 5-4 and most recently, a 5-2 win at home on Jan. 21.

“When they won [in the playoffs], they usually won convincingly,” said Osborne. “I’m raring to get going and see how they stack up against us.”

“They’re a pretty good team,” said rookie goaltender Erika Thunder. “They’ll come out hard. Last time we played them, I got some 30-odd shots so I’m excited to play them.”

Skeats leads the team in scoring in the post-season with five points; four of them goals.

She also sits in eighth in the OUA among top scorers.

Game one is tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Waterloo Recreational Complex.

Game two will be in London Saturday night and if necessary, the third game will be played in Waterloo, Sunday at 7:30 at the Recreational Complex.

“It’s gonna’ be a good series,” said Skeats.

“And we’re going to hopefully end it quicker than this one.”

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