Women’s hockey get a defensive mentality

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Defensively responsible.

That was the mindset of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey team when they hosted the No. 6 nationally-ranked Western Mustangs on Saturday night.

Coming home from a devastating 7-2 loss against the Windsor Lancers on Friday, Laurier knew they had to have a short memory if they wanted to bounce back against the fifth-place team in the Ontario University Athletics conference.

And it paid off. After four periods didn’t solve anything, on the brink of the fifth period of hockey expiring and a shootout looming, Blair Connelly got a pass from Robyn Degagne and used what speed she had left to dangle the puck and capitalized against Western goaltender Kelly Campbell. Connelly scored with 1.6 seconds left on the clock, leading the Hawks to a 2-1 victory.

“More responsible in our own end — that’s the first and foremost important thing,” Connelly, the fifth-year co-captain said. “When we take care of that, everything else seems to flow together.”

The win gave the Hawks two critical points in the race to secure a postseason berth. Laurier is currently tied with the Waterloo Warriors in sixth place with 35 points.

Head coach Rick Osborne was impressed with how the players stepped up against the potent Mustang squad and showed what Laurier is capable of.

“Tonight was the night where truly our best players were our best players, from the goaltender and out to the top two, three [defence] were really good. The top forwards were really good. They got a lot of ice time in the third period and in the overtime period,” he said. “It’s not easy to face a big squad like that. They kept coming and we kept coming.”

“We found a way to force a bounce and we beat a real good team tonight.”

The game remained scoreless until the second period when Heather Platt tipped a shot from Giuliana Pallotta to score her first goal of the season. The Hawks continued their defensively responsible tactic to keep the Mustangs at bay, limiting them to only 11 shots over two periods.

But the Mustangs came storming back in the third period, sending 15 of the 37 shots starting goaltender Amanda Smith faced at her. Western made a final push with under two minutes to play in regulation on the powerplay with the goalie pulled and succeeded, sending the game to overtime.

Shortening up his bench, Osborne alternated between two concrete lines, one of which had the veteran play of Connelly, Jessie Hurrell and Hayley Baxter. Connelly said the game was a “playoff-style type of game,” in its intensity.

“We knew we had to have a 60-minute hard-working effort tonight and everybody in the dressing room did that,” she said.

The game was also a chippy affair, as both teams combined for a total of 30 minutes in the penalty box.

Osborne said the Hawks’ competitive juices were flowing and although he didn’t want to see that many penalties, he thought the penalty kill did really well.

“I just thought that our team tonight when we didn’t have the puck played a really good game,” he said.

And with the No. 5 Toronto Varsity Blues next in line, Laurier is focused on getting another two points on the Blues’ rink. Despite the limited time and space on the ice due to the smaller rink, Connelly remained confident that the Hawks can pull through — if they play defensively responsible.

“Knowing it’s a one-game weekend, we know we can empty the tank that game and that way we can make sure we have a 60-minute solid effort and leave it all out there,” she said.

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