Hockey Hawks remain confident despite scares
Rick Osborne says he has nothing to worry about.
Sure, the head coach of the Wilfrid Laurier women’s hockey team had a rough weekend. His star first-year goaltender Lauren Webber went down Friday night after she sustained a knee injury against the York Lions, and the Hawks lost both of their contests this weekend against the Lions 4-3 and the first-place Toronto Varsity Blues 3-1.
But Osborne, the calm and collected head coach in his 13th season as bench boss thinks everything is going to be perfectly fine.
“My confidence in the depth of this team is fine and I don’t think a weekend like this one or a game like tonight is going to define this team at all,” Osborne said after Sunday’s loss to the Blues.
The Hawks have come into the 2015-16 campaign with 10 new players on the roster, eight of which are rookies. This includes goaltender Webber who up until Sunday had played in all of Laurier’s six regular season games, posting an impressive .947 save percentage and allowing only seven goals.
These rookies are still learning the system in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference, and the system that Osborne preaches.
“We’ve got eight rookies and we’ve got 10 different, new players on the team and they’re all playing big minutes. There’s a lot of grit and character and toughness. I think we’ll be okay,” Osborne said.
And he should be confident. Against the first-place Varsity Blues, backup goaltender Nicholle Kovach showed character, helping the Hawks stay in the game as much as possible. Laurier played a circuit of lines that allowed matchups such as third-year forward Dollee Meigs and fifth-year forward Jessie Hurrell to play against Toronto’s third line and have plenty of scoring opportunities. Fourth-year Erika Kiviaho was a “war horse,” according to Osborne, playing against Toronto’s top offensive line.
Rookie Kaitlyn Hatzes had an outstanding weekend, recording her first-career goal Sunday against Toronto and recording an assist on Friday against the Lions.
But they need to score more.
“We can’t afford to have [Jessie] Hurrell and [Dollee] Meigs and our scorers in slumps like they are right now,” Osborne explained. “We needed to get a couple [against Toronto]. Those matchups were designed so they didn’t have to go head-to-head with their big line.
“I think we need Meigs a little sharper, Hurrell a little sharper against those tough teams.”
This year, Laurier is relying a lot more on a diverse set of players to score. In seven games, Laurier has mustered 16 goals, with their highest goal scorer, Hurrell, scoring only four. In the past few years Laura Brooker would be the main go-to goal scorer, but there isn’t one this year.
“I think it just makes us play a different game and changes our process,” Osborne said. “Our process is moving closer to the old championship years where normally we’d get the first goal in a game like this and wear them down.”
In his 13-year tenure, Osborne has won nine OUA championships and one CIS banner. The head coach knows what it takes for the Hawks to find their way back to the top of the podium. And he’s confident this group will find their footing as the long 24-game season continues. They have focused on the areas of need over the past year — improved goaltending and quick footing on defence, and this is the first time he’s ever rolled six defencemen on the power play and penalty kill.
And with Webber’s injury not looking like it’s season-ending, Osborne’s excited for where this team is going to go.
“I think we’ve done everything we’ve wanted to do coming into this year which increase depth and improve goaltending,” Osborne said. “I can’t say I’m overly concerned or worried.”