Hawks take game one, lose Thunder

The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are one win away from their first Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) title since 2010 and their ninth in 11 seasons, but for the first time all year, they may have to get it done without their starting netminder.

A 4-1 win on Wednesday night allows the women’s hockey Hawks to clinch the OUA banner on Saturday night in Western in the best-of-three championship series, but the Hawks to this point, are uncertain over who will get the call in net.

“It’s believe it’s a knee,” head coach Rick Osborne said after the game, alluding to starting goalie Erika Thunder’s prognosis. “It’s 50-50 whether it could be a serious injury or something that might get her back in action before the end of the playoffs.”

The OUA’s leading goaltender found herself down and out after the only goal the Hawks gave up.

After a scramble in the crease and Western’s Lindsay Gidomski scoring, Thunder got up slowly and made her way to the Hawks’ bench under her own steam and immediately left for the dressing room. She did not return.

“The next morning tells the tale with how long it’s going to be with the rehab and how long she’ll be out,” said Osborne.

Thunder has been a revelation in net all year for Laurier after taking over for a graduated Liz Knox. Her numbers have been atop the OUA all season.

Rachel Hamilton took over and stopped all the shots she faced, save for a squeaker that trickled along the goal line before being cleared. She did look shaky to start.

“She had a rough outing in London earlier this season and that was totally on her mind. It was a really tough spot for her to go in but I thought she showed great character and great resilience [as the game went on],” said the coach. “She stopped the shots she needed to.”

Hamilton was the definition of cold. Her last outing was a ll the way back to a 5-4 victory on Jan. 7 in which she was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on nine shots.

But the Hawks seldom needed “Hammy” to come up big. Western only recorded four shots on net in the third and final stanza, and finished with 16 in the game. The Hawks had 42.

“We all believed in Hammy to get in there and step up her game,” said Devon Skeats who continued her torrid playoff pace with another goal – her fifth of the post-season and 12th in her playoff career in only 17 games.

“You just get in there and you do what you can,” said Hamilton. “You just fight through [the nerves]. The first shot comes, then you’re good.”

Aside from taking undisciplined penalties; an aspect Osborne vocally voiced his displeasure on after the contest, Laurier played a near-perfect gem.

The team is playing their best hockey at the right time and they’re getting contributions from unlikely sources offensively.

Defenseman Blair Connelly got the Hawks off to a flying start with her third of the playoffs 12 minutes into the game on the power-play (another facet of his team’s game Osborne would like to see improved) as the puck deflected in past Western goalie Kelly Campbell off Connelly’s stick shaft.

Over a minute later, Skeats would dig out a loose puck from underneath Campbell and slide it home just before the referee blew her whistle to stop the play.

A gorgeous centring pass from Tammy Freiburger gave Paula Lagamba her second of the post-season as she rifled home a one-timer from the slot with a minute left in the first, and the game was over for the Mustangs after the spotted 3-0 lead after the opening frame.

Brittany Crago added a shorthanded tally to ice the game.

Game two of the series will be played at Western Saturday night at 7:30. Laurier can claim the OUA trophy with a win.

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