Home ice title still possible for Laurier
Coming into Friday night’s game versus the Manitoba Bisons, the Laurier Golden Hawks didn’t just need a win, they needed a big win. And that’s just what they got.
The Hawks’ 4-0 win over the Canada West champion Bisons at the very least temporarily preserved the chance for Laurier to win the national championship on home ice, following their 4-3 loss to St. F.X. just one night prior.
“After last night’s game we were a little bit discouraged, especially on an individual level, there was a few of us that knew we needed to play better,” said Laurier goalie Liz Knox. “But we just rallied as a team and supported each other the whole way and I think that’s what gave us the motivation we needed.”
Knox’s game was one of the most obvious turnarounds for the Hawks compared to the St. F.X. game as she went from allowing four goals on 18 shots to stopping all 20 of Manitoba’s attempts on goal.
“It was really inspiring to see the way the team rallied behind me,” said Knox. “I could feel the guilt but there were 21 girls that just pushed behind me and said ‘we’ve got your back.’”
In addition to Knox looking more like the former Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) player of the year that she is, Laurier’s offence showed much more life than it did against St. F.X. And it was a couple of unlikely heroes who got things going.
Tammy Freiburger, who was a healthy scratch against St. F.X. opened the scoring on the power play late in the first period, with usual third or fourth liner Andrea Shapero widening the margin to 2-0 mid-way through the second. Both Freiburger and Shapero would add an assist in the game.
“I’m so proud of those kids,” said Knox. “I’ve become pretty good friends with them both over the year and I told them ‘when you get your shot, you’ve got to make it count’ and [they] did that thonight.”
Shapero meanwhile assessed her game a little more simply.
“I missed one last night, but I got it back tonight,” she said. “It feels great, I’ve been waiting for a while.”
Second-years Devon Skeats and Fiona Lester added the other two Laurier markers.
The Hawks were toeing a dangerous line in this game as they needed to a somewhat lop-sided score line in order to improve their chances of advancing to the gold medal game. That meant they needed a lot of offence, but at the same time, couldn’t afford to get involved in a high-scoring affair. And between Knox’s goaltending and the team’s performance, they did it to perfection.
“We were conscious of winning each period,” said Laurier head coach Rick Osborne. “That really focused us and we really didn’t need to even think of the spread, we just knew that if we won every period it would at least make things interesting.”
Laurier now finds themselves in one of the toughest positions in sports: Waiting on the result of a game they don’t control.
The purple and gold will be watching tomorrow night’s Manitoba-St. F.X. game with keen eyes as it will determine whether they play for a gold or bronze medal on Sunday. And this is where the tiebreaking scenarios take centre stage.
If Manitoba beats St. F.X. by less than eight, but more than two goals, Laurier plays for gold, Manitoba for bronze, St. F.X. for fifth. If St. F.X. wins by any margin, they play for gold, Laurier for bronze, Manitoba for fifth. And finally, if Manitoba wins by one or two, they play for fifth, St. F.X. for bronze, Laurier for gold.
Osborne, however, won’t be obsessing over those potential scenarios.
“I think we can sit back and relax because if X wins, they’ve earned the right to move on,” he said. “I just think that our pool is so evenly matched that nothing’s a gimme.”
St. F.X. and Manitoba will play that crucial game tomorrow night at 7:30, just after the McGill Martlets play the upstart Queen’s Gaels at 4:00 in a game that will be determining the gold medal representative from that pool.