Two more wins has women’s hockey ranked No. 2 in Canada

Erika Thunder is playing like anything but a rookie.

Thunder led the Golden Hawks’ women’s hockey team to victory Saturday night against the visiting University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks by a score of 4-1.

Thunder stopped 17 of 18 shots for the victory while four different Hawks recorded goals.

“In the first and third periods I didn’t have a whole lot of shots so it was mainly just staying in the game because it’s hard to keep your confidence and focus up,” Thunder said on her fifth consecutive start this season.

“It feels great [being the rookie goaltender]. It’s an honour playing.”

The Golden Hawks (9-0-1) started out steady, applying pressure to the defence of the Ridgebacks. Eight minutes in, Fiona Lester found the back of the net for WLU’s first tally.

Minutes later, the Ridgebacks’ Jill Morillo responded with a swift goal past Thunder’s shoulder to tie it up.

However, it took the Golden Hawks less than ten seconds to retaliate with a goal of their own, as sophomore Laura Brooker came in alone off the faceoff and beat goaltender Jessica Larabie.

Despite a scoreless second period, both netminders made stellar saves to keep their teams in the game. Abby Rainsberry of Laurier started off the opportunities with an end-to-end play midway through the second, leaving a solid shot on Larabie, but was denied any rebound.

A whirlwind of shots found Larabie again, but the third-year netminder kept her crease clean without any major opportunities.

The Ridgebacks (4-8-0) responded only moments later with a back-checking opportunity, but Thunder deprived the visitors of any chances. Off a faceoff, Thunder would then pull a glove save to end the pressure from the Ridgebacks.

“I’m really pleased with Erika [Thunder],” said head coach Rick Osborne. “She’s out challenging the shooter and she’s playing big.”

“Every team is trying to go bar-down on her and she’s getting a piece of it and she’s not making the first move, and she’s got a lot of patience. I like how she handled the puck tonight.”

In the final period, Laurier exhibited their best action, dominating possession. Defender Alicia Martin undressed the UOIT defence after performing an awe-inspiring toe-drag, and Hawks forwards Paula Lagamba and Katherine Shirriff rounded out the scoring.

Thunder confidently held the Ridgebacks scoreless off only five shots in the third for a three period total of 18. The Hawks produced 52 shots on Larabie.

“I feel pretty good, my confidence is up,” Thunder said with a smile. “I’m ready.”

Friday night, Laurier beat the No. 6 nationally-ranked Queen’s Gaels (7-3-1) 5-2. Osborne noticed the improvement in Laurier’s ability to stay focused for two tough games.

“It was nice to see, even on back-to-back [games], our conditioning really pays off.”

Laurier will now head to Guelph on Thursday for a rematch of their last visit, where Guelph won 3-2 in overtime.

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