Laurier kicks off CIS finals

Later on this week Laurier’s women’s hockey team will be performing on the biggest stage most of them have ever played on at the national championship. But on Sunday afternoon, they got the chance to remind themselves of their hockey roots as the team helped get the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship week unofficially underway.

The Hawks took to the ice at the Waterloo Public Square along with local girls minor hockey teams for a day of outdoor hockey, which as any player will tell you, always makes for a good day.

“It definitely brings back some old memories,” said Laurier captain Abby Rainsberry. “We all just love to play around so to be out here with the kids, just playing hockey, it’s a lot of fun.”

The event was put on by Laurier’s athletics department as a means of raising awareness of the CIS finals, which the school is hosting from Thursday to Sunday, and promoting ticket sales. In addition to the minor hockey players being able to share the ice with the Hawks, the day also featured a performance from Canadian National Fiddle Champion and Laurier alumnus Frank Leahy.

“Frank’s a huge hockey fan and a Laurier alum, so he just wanted to help out,” said WLU athletic director Peter Baxter. “But we really just wanted to get ourselves out into the community and generate some publicity and hopefully sell some tickets.”

While four-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser and the Calgary Dinos failed to qualify for the tournament, Baxter maintains that anyone who buys a ticket for the tournament will not be disappointed.

“It’s the best women’s hockey that you’re going to see,” he said. “These are future Olympians and some of them are even current Olympians, so the skill level is incredibly high. And from a Laurier standpoint, we believe we have a championship caliber team and we’re confident that we could see Laurier winning it’s second national title in it’s 100th year on home ice.”

The Hawks will play their first game of the tournament on Thursday night at 7:30 at the Waterloo Recreation Complex. And this year they find themselves with something more to prove, as they had their streak of seven consecutive provincial titles snapped in the Ontario University Atheltics (OUA) semifinals by Queen’s, who will be the other Ontario representative.

However, according to Rainsberry, the team has been able to put the shocking upset behind them and is ready to make the most of still being able to play at the CIS finals, automatically qualifying as the host team.

“I think we’ve been able to let it go,” she said. “We took it pretty hard for the first couple of days but now we’ve turned the page and we’re ready to make up for [not winning the OUA] at nationals.”

While Laurier and Queen’s make up the OUA’s entry in the tournament, the Alberta Pandas and Manitoba Bisons will represent the Canada West conference, the McGill Martlets will come out of the Quebec Student Sport Federation and the St. F.X. X-Women will be the Atlantic University Sport representative.

All games will be played at the Waterloo Recreation Complex and will get underway this Thursday at 4:00, followed by Laurier’s game, which will include the tournament opening ceremonies at 7:30.

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