Women’s hockey earns playoff bye

Not much of anything got behind York Lions’ goaltender Sydney McMurter on Saturday afternoon in a 2-0 Laurier victory, save for Hawks’ rookie Laura Brooker’s two powerplay tallies and the keeper’s own stick.

“The knob at the end just went in through the outside of the net and I tried to pull it out and it was stuck,” said the Lions’ net guardian. “So I just dropped it and kept going.”

McMurter’s obstinate timber seemed to have a mind of its own, and wound up in the hands of a Lions’ defenceman earlier in the period, who swapped sticks with McMurter while the Hawks applied pressure in a frantic scramble around the net.

The keeper wasn’t burned by her wayward companion in any of the slapstick comedic moments that had sticks flying and the Lions scrambling to keep the puck out of their twine before a furious Hawks’ onslaught, but Brooker held the key that solved McMurter.

First, the freshman slid a backhander between the keeper’s pads on the Hawks’ first powerplay, then drilled a one-timer home in the slot off a pass by the flu-ridden Katherine Shirriff who spent more time in bed this week than on the ice.

“She played just enough to get an assist on the powerplay,” noted head coach Rick Osborne.

Put 17 goals up on the board for the Hawks’ young sniper, Brooker. That’s more than any Laurier player had in a full season last year.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a rookie get that spot [on the top line] as early as her and just keep it,” marvelled Osborne.“She gets shorthanded goals; she gets powerplay goals; she gets game winners.”

But on a league’s number one squad, there’s always work to do.

“It’s nice to have a regular season like that but we don’t judge any of our rookies until we’ve seen a long playoff run,” said the coach.

Laurier goalie Liz Knox made 14 saves and picked up her fourth shutout of the season, while McMurter made 27 which included some miraculous saves to keep the score respectable for the Lions.

The Hawks went 2-5 on the man-advantage and killed all four penalties, a trend Osborne wants to see continue.

“The penalty-kill wasn’t as good as it needed to be in the first half of the season and it’s getting there now,” said Osborne. “Special teams are going to be really critical in the playoffs.”

The next day, Laurier dismantled the University of Toronto, 6-1 and claimed a bye through the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

On Sunday, Knox, Candice Styles, Alicia Martin and former captain Andrea Ironside were flown to Turkey to take part in the 2011 Winter Universiade, a mini-Olympics for elite University-level athletes.

The Hawks will play their next four games without the trio and team advisor, Ironside.

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