Laurier falls in wild first game vs. St. F.X.

Almost everything went according to plan for the host Laurier Golden Hawks at their first game of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) women’s hockey finals. The fans showed up, 1200 strong. The atmosphere was electric. And everyone at the Waterloo Recreation complex was treated to an exciting, back-and-forth game of hockey.

The only thing missing from the hosts’ perfect night? A Laurier win.

The Hawks fell 4-3 to the St. F.X. X-Women in a game that saw multiple lead changes, some great goals (along with some not-so-great ones) and a result that was very much still up in the air in the game’s final minute.

“To be honest, my heart’s still beating pretty fast,” said Laurier forward Vanessa Schabkar. “But our dressing room’s pretty mellow right now, it’s always tough to lose your first game at nationals, but especially here on home ice.”

The teams battled to a 2-2 score line until the middle of the third period, when Laurier was assessed a questionable delay of game call that put them down five-on-three.

“I couldn’t really see from my vantage point, but I had no idea what it was for,” said Laurier head coach Rick Osborne. “When I heard it was for delay of game, it was just something that has not been called all year in the OUA.”

The X-Women would score on that five-on-three in just as controversial fashion as the penalty. Catie Gavin put the X-Women up 3-2 on a goal that appeared to be kicked in. Despite the Hawks’ protests the X-Women took the lead and would extend it to 4-2 just three minutes later when Gavin beat Laurier’s Liz Knox after a giveaway left her all alone in front of the Hawks net.

But just a minute after Gavin’s second goal, Schabkar would make everybody else’s heart beat a little faster when her shot found the back of the net to give the Hawks some life.

“Right before that I said ‘I’m not going to give up, my heart’s still in this and I know the other 22 players’ hearts are too,” said Schabkar. “That really brought us all up, we had seven minutes left and I thought we pushed really hard for those seven minutes.”

Those closing seven minutes featured a furious pace, several chances both ways and even a Laurier powerplay, but in the end the Hawks just couldn’t find the goal that would send it to overtime.

“It was a tough loss, it’s certainly uncharacteristic of us to give up four goals,” said Osborne. “I think that sums it up, behind our blueline we just were not as poised as we have been for years.”

Despite the disappointing loss, both Schabkar and Osborne acknowledged the great atmosphere created by the fans.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this building so electric,” said Schabkar. “We had so many people out here, it was such a great feeling, I will never forget it.”

“I absolutely thought when we scored that third goal, that were going to get a fourth just because the building was so electric,” added Osborne.

With the loss, the Hawks now find themselves very much behind the eight ball. They now must win their game in regulation on Friday night versus the Manitoba, and then turn around and cheer for them as they play St. F.X. on Saturday.

“We’ve got 24 hours and we’ve got to re-group,” said Osborne. “Our plan now is to make them bring out that tiebreaker process at the end of the round robin. Manitoba’s going to be tough, but we just need to refocus and come out and beat them tomorrow.”

The Hawks and Bisons face off Friday night at 7:30. Queen’s and Alberta will play the early game.