Hawks look to avenge semifinal upset

If the fifth-ranked Laurier Golden Hawks needed any extra motivation heading into this year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) finals, they got it from the Queen’s Gaels.

The upstart Gaels stunned the powerhouse Hawks in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinals, winning two double-overtime games to sweep the series. This not only ended a string of seven straight OUA titles for the purple and gold but also marked the first time they didn’t at least play in the provincial final since 1999-00.

“The first few days after, a lot of us really took it hard,” said Hawks’ captain Abby Rainsberry. “But we’ve had to time to get over it and we’ve had time to practice and prepare both tactically and mentally and I think in the end it will work in our favour.”

That surprising loss could end up being a blessing in disguise for the Hawks, who aren’t accustomed to having any time between the OUA finals and the beginning of the CIS tournament. Not only does it give the team extra time to rest, but it allowed them to completely get over a bout of illness that took a toll on the team late in the regular season.

“It will be quite different because normally we play the OUA finals one week and then we have to turn around right away and play on Thursday,” said Rainsberry. “So it was a lot more sitting around but we came back and practiced hard and now we’ll be one of the most rested teams [at the tournament] and hopefully that’ll work out in our favour.”

While the Hawks would love a chance at revenge on the Gales, the teams are in opposite pools and a re-match wouldn’t come until the final day of the tournament, where they could playing for gold, bronze or fifth-place.

“Obviously we’d love another crack at them, but they’re not in our pool, so we’re going to have to focus on getting through first,” said Rainsberry. “But if we do end up meeting them in the final, it’ll be another great game and we’ll be ready for them.”

And if the potential for revenge on Queen’s wasn’t enough incentive added to the simple desire to be the best in the country, the Hawks can draw inspiration from two of their veterans.

Fifth-years Erin Weber and Liz Knox will be graduating this year and although they have their share of provincial hardware, the national title has always seemed to elude them. According to Laurier head coach Rick Osborne, having those players leave on a high note means a great deal to his team.

“Erin Weber has been a pillar of strength and no one took the semifinal loss to Queen’s harder than her,” he said. “And I know Knox is looking to write her final chapter…. So there’s a lot of incentive there.”

The Hawks will open the tournament on Thursday night at 7:30 versus the undefeated St. F.X. X-Women, a game Osborne knows will be a tough one.

“We’ve been on the ice five of the past seven days, because we know we need to ready,” he said. “X is undefeated…. And we know that they have four lines and six [defencemen] that can play along with some great goaltending.”

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