Laurier sets sights on OUA finals

(Photo by Jody Waardenburg)

(Photo by Jody Waardenburg)

Wilfrid Laurier’s women’s hockey team has a chance at redemption.

After a disappointing early exit in the 2012-13 campaign, the Hawks set out with their eyes on Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship, and nothing less.

It was a tough road — Laurier struggled early, didn’t have a solid starting netminder and found themselves in second place of the OUA for the first time since Rick Osborne was bench boss.

But it hasn’t stopped them, as the Hawks defeated the UOIT Ridgebacks in the first series before defeating the Toronto Varsity Blues in three games to advance to the OUA final once again.

And what a chance it is.

“I’m very proud of our vets,” Osborne said Sunday after Laurier’s 2-1 win to knock off the Blues.

“[Laurier] learned a tough lesson last year in game three against Western and that’s what we were focused on today. What an opportunity to show what we learned from last year and what an opportunity for new kids to start making some history here at Laurier.”

And a win in the semifinals meant a date with the Queen’s Gaels, who upset the first-seeded Guelph Gryphons in three games to move onto the OUA final.

Because of seeding, Laurier has the opportunity to host games one and three of the series, if necessary.

“It’s great for our team,” Laurier forward Jessie Hurrell, who had an assist on the game-winning goal against Toronto, said.

“We just wanted to make it to the finals to play Queen’s and now we have home ice advantage against Queen’s too. We’re just looking forward to that now.”

Despite being the higher seed, Laurier doesn’t have an easy road to their potential 11th provincial championship.

The Gaels played spoiler in 2012-13 to the Gryphons, and went on to win the OUA championship.

In 2010-11, Laurier was upset in two overtime losses in the OUA semifinals by the Gaels.

The Hawks recognize they’re a hard team.

“It means a whole lot … [Queen’s is] built the same way we are. It’s going to be one tough, physical series,” Osborne said.

“[But] I like our depth. We waited until the last ten minutes to get down to three lines [against Toronto] … and for two and a half periods we had everyone going. Which is one more line and one d-line than they had. And I do believe in a one-goal game, that makes a difference.”

What Osborne needs from his depth will come strongly from his veterans, who have seen a championship won and lost on the will of the team.

Fourth-year captain Laura Brooker put her body on the line against Toronto, blocking three consecutive shots in a 20-second sequence right at the end of the first period to keep the game tied at one.

“I’m sore,” laughed Brooker. “I took a few, well, everywhere. I was on the ground being shot at, so I feel a little sore.”

Brooker, along with the core group of veterans, will need to continue that play against Queen’s to claim the OUA championship — along with a few other methods.

“Again, [it’ll be] defence first and crash the net. [We need to] stay on their good players and shut them down and let our team play their game,” Hurrell said.

The series opens Wednesday night at the Waterloo Recreational Complex at 7:30 p.m.

Game two will be in Kingston at 3 p.m. on Friday.

If necessary, game three will be back at the Waterloo Rec Complex on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.

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