The right ‘system’ for the man advantage
The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey team hosted the Nipissing Lakers and the Laurentian Voyageurs during their final home stand last weekend. In what were games very much dominated by special teams and a prediction of what the playoffs will look like in a few weeks, the Hawks came out with the sweep, defeating the Lakers handily 6-1 and the Voyageurs 3-1.
During the game against the Lakers, the Hawks were able to convert on three of their six chances on the powerplay, and only allowed one powerplay goal in four opportunities. Heading into the final games of the season and into the postseason, special teams will become even more important to capitalize on opportunities.
“For a team who is a high scoring team in the [Ontario University Athletics] OUA, playoff time has a real way of minimizing the high-scoring teams in the regular season. Playoff time has become more of an emphasis on special teams, particularly on the power play. It’s really important that we convert on some of our powerplays,” Laurier head coach Rick Osborne said.
Playing at such a high level of competition with competitive opponents really amps up the atmosphere, especially during playoff time, according to Osborne.
“The competition, the adrenaline flows quick and the other team is battling as hard as you are. You get alot of ‘Ooo’s’ and ‘Awww’s’ around the net,” Osborne said. “People are just squeezing their stick a little bit harder so it would be really nice to back a team off by having a really potent powerplay.”
But Laurier has struggled on the powerplay over the regular season. Osborne hopes to change that as they enter the playoffs.
“I think our biggest issue during the regular season is we really love to control the puck and keep it around the perimeter and look fancy, but not get the pucks and bodies, so I would like to take, we got to manufacture some offence right around the net. I would like to have more action in the paint.”
Unfortunately, during the second game this weekend, the powerplay units were unable to get anything done. However, the Hawks were able to stop all five opportunities Laurentian had with the extra man.
“I like to use our really smart, intelligent systems … to shut down the top unit of the other team and use our speedsters to try to victimize the second unit,” Osborne said. “We have the really smart, intelligent penalty killers who know exactly where we want the shots to come from, and we have [Devon] Skeats and [Laura] Brooker. That group can fly and really change the momentum with a shorthanded goal.”
“I think it’s really important being able to kill them off,” third-year Jessie Hurrell said regarding penalty killing. “We haven’t let in that many shorthanded goals. Yesterday was an exception, but we have a strong core that gets it done and stays inside the box.”
The women’s hockey program also gave honour to their two graduating players, fifth-year defenceman Candice Styles and fifth-year forward Skeats, who played their last regular season home game on Saturday. Both Styles and Skeats were sent off in style, as both graduates scored two goals each against Nipissing, and added three assists against Laurentian — two from Styles and one from Skeats.
Laurier finishes off the regular season this weekend when they face the Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs on the road. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Laurier has the potential to finish as high as first in the OUA or as low as fourth, depending on the rest of the OUA.