Lady Hawks take game one of conference quarterfinals

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She’s not the most unlikely player to notch the team’s first marker of the post-season with eight goals on her campaign this year, but Devon Skeats’ tally might have just saved the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks from an opening night scare.

The third-year Whitby native and team jokester got the Hawks rolling in a 4-2 win over the Brock Badgers to open the Ontario University Athletics’ conference quarterfinals with a gorgeous if not inspirational goal just nine minutes into the first period.

Skeats collected a loose puck after an uncharacteristic two-on-one rush given up by the Hawks was broken up.

After back-checking, Skeats fell, she recovered, and then the forward skated 150 feet back into the Brock zone, cut to the slot, and fired a wrist shot that beat Brock goaltender Emily Kelly to the glove side.

“I was surprised I got up and beat that [Brock] girl [to the puck],” said the left-winger. “I love the playoffs. It’s my time to shine.”

“It reminded me of her rookie year; the type of energy she put into that first goal,” said head coach Rick Osborne. ‘She was down, she was up and she still out-skated the rest of the team.”

The Hawks were in full control of the game until the third period, where, 14 seconds into the frame, the Badgers flew into the Laurier zone and banged home a rebound by Jessica Fickel.

The Badgers then cut the Laurier lead to 3-2 after Brittney Cabral fired a laser that went bar-down above Hawks’ goaltending first-year Erika Thunder’s head with five minutes left in the game.

But that would be as close as Brock came to toppling the number-one ranked team in the country as Katharine Shirriff added an empty-net goal to seal the victory.

Tammy Freiburger scored twice in the second period to round out the scoring for the Hawks.

“Maybe it was opening night jitters. I’m not quite sure, but it wasn’t good enough after the first period tonight,” said Osborne.

Laurier seemed all too content to sit on their 3-0 lead and it nearly came back to bite them later on.

“A couple sloppy line changes, a power-play goal against … that was way too easy of a goal for them get right in the opening minute of the third period,” said the coach. “We had a lot of good players who did not play real smart tonight and did not follow the system that we’ve had in place over the years so I was kind of puzzled at that.”

Nevertheless, Laurier still outshot Brock 41-13 in the contest; a total that’s a common sight at the Hawks’ home Waterloo Recreational Complex.

That’s the luxury that the top team in the country can afford.

Even with a sub-par game, the team can still squeak out wins in most ways possible.

Brock finished the game one-for-five on the powerplay while Laurier went zero-for-three on the man-advantage.

“I don’t think I played my best,” said Thunder. “I was a little shaky in the third period.”

Osborne would disagree.

“She made a save or two in the third period that saved our bacon,” said the coach.

The camera-shy Thunder will lead her team into uncharted waters in Brock on Saturday night for game two in the best-of-three series.

“I think Erika’s going to go into a hostile environment. The Brock fans are usually pretty unruly at playoff time and it’s going to take focus and concentration [to pull out a win],” said Osborne.

Gametime is 7:30 p.m. at Brock on Saturday. If necessary, game three will go Sunday night at the Waterloo Recreational Complex at 7:30 p.m.

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