Women’s Hockey set to begin season Wednesday against Waterloo after 600 days off
It goes without saying that 2020 was a challenging year for everybody – including student-athletes across many different sports. Both Golden Hawks hockey team’s, men and women will finally resume competition this week following an extended period off the ice due to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) cancellation of sports last year.
“I think the energy over the past six to eight weeks leading through our entire training camp and pre-season has always been positive, knowing that we’re just back competing again,” Women’s hockey coach, Kelly Paton said.
627 days removed from their last game, Coach Paton and the women’s hockey team will begin a new season and kick off the entire OUA hockey schedule on Wednesday night as they host their cross-city rivals – the Waterloo Warriors.
“I think that’s going to be a big part of the energy that we bring this week through the start of the regular season. We’re trying to keep focused and have a clear plan on how we can be competitive against Waterloo, while also just taking in the excitement and appreciating the sport again, enjoying it as best as we can,” Coach Paton said.
The 2019-20 season was a disappointing year for the Golden Hawks, after losing 12 of their first 14 games and finishing near the bottom of the OUA with just five wins in the 24-game season.
While many results didn’t go their way, the team was able to stay competitive throughout the whole year and finished on the wrong side of six overtime losses, a reason for Coach Paton and her team to be optimistic heading into this season.
The OUA will be one of the last conferences in Canadian university sport to get underway once the puck drops on Wednesday night. With a lengthy delay and a pandemic still very much present, the league made several changes to the season’s schedule and structure, as they did with most fall sports.
“I think there are the right protocols in place to allow both staff and spectators as well as student-athletes to feel comfortable in that environment and have success in their sport again,” Coach Paton said.
Coach Paton, who is in her fourth year as head coach of the program will be one of many coaches across the province adjusting to a shortened schedule and a new two division structure, focused on reducing travel. The league created a 20-game schedule featuring multiple two-game sets against each of the five division members.
“It’s definitely different and it’s going to offer different strategies with the coaches especially, in terms of maybe offering a few more adjustments… just knowing that we are playing the same team twice in the same week,” Coach Paton said of some of the changes.
With so much time having passed and two new recruiting classes in the fold, the lady hawks will be a much different team than from the last time they were on the ice.
Their last game, Feb. 15, 2020, was a 1-0 upset victory over the nationally ranked York Lions to close out their season. It was one of three victories over ranked programs that year, accounting for over half of their wins on the season.
Team leaders such as Jaden Head, Aynsley Harrison and captain Jamie Watson all played their last game in that contest against York, as Laurier will feature 15 players this season – over half of their roster – who have yet to experience OUA hockey.
“We are a young program. I think that we’re obviously going to lack a little bit of experience knowing that we have that many new players to integrate into a new system,” Coach Paton said.
While on the flip side Coach Paton is looking forward to the challenge of having many fresh faces on the ice and believes it will bring a “welcome of energy.”
“We may go through some growing pains early on, but I’m confident that we have the right foundation to have a successful season.”
One of the returning veterans is star goaltender, Cohen Myers who recorded 28 saves in that York contest to finish her latest season with a shutout. Myers as well as Emily Visser and Rebcca Hall among others will be leaned upon heavy this year as they take on a leadership role with the team and mentor the new Golden Hawks.
Myers has had a fantastic OUA career thus far, while Visser was tied for second on the team with eight points back in 2020.
“Now more than ever, we will look to our returning group to take the leadership reigns especially inside the locker room,” Coach Paton said.
After a 1-4 record in five pre-season games, including two losses against the Warriors, the Golden Hawks are eager to start the real action and will be looking for improvement in a unique OUA season this year.
The Warriors qualified for the playoffs last season, whereas the Golden Hawks will be looking to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2016 and the first time under Coach Paton.
“We’ve always set goals internally to be a part of the post-season and I think that’s something we still have in place for this year,” she said. “The Battle of Waterloo” will resume on the ice for the first time in a long time on Wednesday night at SunLife Financial Arena in uptown Waterloo. Laurier will look to begin their season on a winning note and end a 12-game losing streak at home. Puck drop is set for 7pm and tickets can be bought through https://laurier.universitytickets.com/.