Hawks take CIS bronze

ANTIGONISH, NS— For the first time in school history, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey team will walk away from the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship with bronze medals around their necks. The Hawks defeated the St. Mary’s Huskies 4-0 in the national third place game on Sunday afternoon to claim the CIS bronze.

“The bronze medal feels good, but the way played feels really good,” said head coach Rick Osborne of the Hawks’ performance. “I’d say this season was probably the second best we’ve ever had, and I only say that because we had a national title [in 2005]… We only lost one game in regulation this year and unfortunately that had to be to Alberta [in the opening game of the CIS finals].”

Hawks’ rookie Devon Skeats -who was coming off a hat-trick in Laurier’s game versus the St. F.X. X-Women on Friday- continued her torrid scoring pace, opening the scoring with six minutes left in the first period, and then closing it with a short-handed goal mid-way through the third. Skeats’s five goals made her the tournament’s leading goal-scorer.

“It feels great, it really makes me feel like I’m making a bigger impact on the team,” said Skeats. “But really, I’m just happy to medal. I’m not used to winning all these games, my team last year was not a winning one… and it just feels unreal to be the third best team in Canada.”

Second-year Caitlin Muirhead and rookie Candice Styles would score the other Hawks’ goals en route to a dominating win which saw the purple and gold out-shoot the Huskies 44-9, giving recently named CIS player of the year Liz Knox her third shut-out in the past seven games, dating back to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs.

“The girls really deserved this win,” said Knox. “We left it all out on the ice and that’s what we wanted to do regardless of the score, and… it just feels great.”

Knox, who is in her fourth and final year at Laurier, was one of six players who played their last games as Golden Hawks on Sunday afternoon. Also finishing their university hockey careers were fifth-years Andrea Ironside, Vanessa Bennett and Kate Psota, as well as fourth years Stephanie Crarey and Laura Bartolini.

“We’ve been really fortunate over the past five years,” said Ironside of her time at Laurier. “There’s no better way to go out than on top and I know this isn’t the game we wanted to be playing in, but we showed a lot of heart today and there’s some character girls in that dressing room.”

“It’s been unreal,” added Bennett. “I think that sums it up pretty well.”

While the contributions of the graduating veterans will obviously be missed next season, with the performances of this year’s rookies, Osborne is confident that the team will be able to move forward and continue the tradition of winning that has categorized Laurier women’s hockey for the past decade.

“The rookies really showed no fear,” he said. “I’m really happy with the re-load we did this season… I see a lot of shining careers coming out of our rookie crop this year, and I think we’re ready to go roaring into next season.”

Next season, the Hawks will have the chance to claim the national title on home ice as Laurier will play host to the 2011 CIS finals.