Women’s hockey loses shocker in game one

It wasn’t exactly the start the number-two nationally ranked Golden Hawks women’s hockey team envisioned when they pictured their playoff trek to defend their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) crown.

An eighth-straight Laurier championship is in jeopardy early as the upstart fourth-placed Queen’s Gaels escaped the Waterloo Recreation Complex on Tuesday night with little breath to spare, a 2-1 double-overtime victory and a 1-0 best-of-three series lead against the powerhouse Laurier squad who are hosting the national championship later in March.

Queen’s has provided the first hiccup for the young Laurier squad, and the Hawks now face elimination and must win their next two games against the Gaels starting Friday in Kingston, to move on to the OUA finals, a position few ever expected the group to be in.

“You’ve got to give [Queen’s] full marks for coming out full of energy and for staying with us for the whole three periods plus overtime,” said Hawks head coach Rick Osborne.

Just over three minutes into the second overtime period, a failed clearing attempt by Hawks’ blueliner Alicia Martin led to a scramble to the left of Laurier goaltender Liz Knox.

The Gaels’ Brittany McHaffie emerged with the loose disc and slipped it past Knox who had attempted to cut the puck off at the side of the cage.

There were much more deserving shots to end a game with this magnitude and intensity, but as the case can be in overtime, the exclamation mark can be provided by the most underwhelming of chances.

“[Knox] came out and I think she expected to stop the puck,” said the Guelph native, McHaffie. “I just kind of beat her to it and slid it under her stick. I didn’t expect it to go in but it just snuck through.”

It was familiar territory for the Gaels, who just last Saturday, vanquished the Windsor Lancers by the very same score and again needed the two extra frames for the right to face off against the Hawks.

“It was the same feeling,” said the Queen’s heroine. “We were down 1-0 and tied the game and we knew any shot could go in from either team so we had to play well in both ends of the ice.”

Brittany Crago got things started for Laurier late in the first period to give the Hawks the lead on a 2-on-1 rush with Candice Styles.

Later, McHaffie’s sister Morgan, tied the match with a one-timer past Knox’s catching mitt.

Morgan had Knox at her mercy with the goaltender’s stick all the way at the corner of the rink thanks to an earlier scuffle that separated the keeper from her timber.

Osborne cited a dismal 5-on-3 advantage and a failed penalty shot by rookie sensation Laura Brooker as pivotal turning points.

“We moved the puck a little bit but we just didn’t finish with a lot of energy,” said Osborne of his powerplay unit.

Brooker had the game on her stick twice with two breakaways, one on the free
shot in which she tried a forehand-to-backhand deke, and then tried a blocker-side laser that caught Queen’s ‘tender Mel Dodd-Moher and rang off the post.
Dodd-Moher made 40 saves in the victory.

“We’ll have to bury those chances when we get them and not wait for double
overtime,” said team captain Abby Rainsberry who squeezed a puck past Dodd-Moher but hit the post in the first extra frame.

The Hawks are navigating unchartered waters as Laurier hadn’t suffered an OUA
playoff loss since March of 2009.

But there was no panic on the Hawks’ faces after the altercation. Osborne even afforded a chuckle at Queens’ prospects of a second straight double overtime.

“I had hoped [their first one] tired them out,” the coach smiled when asked if
Queen’s overtime experience gave them the upper hand.

“We need to step it up a couple notches,” said captain ‘Rainsy’. “We’ll be ready
for Friday.”

Game two will go Friday night in Kingston, with game three back in Waterloo on Friday night, should the Hawks even the series.