Women’s hockey struggling to score

PAIGE BUSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

PAIGE BUSH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Head coach Rick Osborne has the experience. He’s currently in his 12th season with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. He knows where to find talent. He has nine Ontario University Athletics championships and a Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship under his belt. Two seasons ago, the Hawks won an OUA championship with eight rookies.

But this year, things are different. They’re struggling to do the fundamental basics — score.

Jessie Hurrell’s goal on the Nipissing Lakers in a 1-0 overtime win ended a 196 minute and 47 second scoring drought dating back to the Hawks’ 2-1 victory against the Brock Badgers on January 9, which were scored by rookie Madison MacCulloch. Hurrell’s sixth of the season ties her with MacCulloch for the Hawks’ leading scorer, but currently Laurier is tied for ninth in goals-scored out of 13 teams this season. The last time a veteran player scored a goal in the regular season was back in November.

“Most of the time I think we’ve had enough chances to win — enough chances to win the glove game and enough chances to win this particular game,” Osborne said.

The Hawks rookies are doing the heavy lifting and providing the offensive outbursts, but Laurier needs their veterans to contribute if they want to reclaim their spot back at the top of the OUA. This means finding a way to play a stronger second period, which is the Hawks’ latest foe.

In the first 10 minutes of the second period against the Laurentian Voyageurs on Friday night, the Hawks struggled — and Laurentian capitalized. Osborne said the Hawks developed “turtle legs” and lost their compete level while the Voyageurs put their own bus legs away after being skated into the ice the first period, and gave it right back to the Hawks. Laurentian scored four minutes into the second period, and that was all they needed.

“We’ve been working on that since the beginning of the second half. Pucks and bodies to the blue paint. Most of the time I think we’ve had enough chances to win — enough chances to win the glove game and enough chances to win this particular game,” he explained.

Osborne said the Hawks’ sleepy first 10 minutes in the second period was what hurt them against Laurentian, and takes responsibility for Laurier not being ready.

“The second period is something we pay a lot of attention to, and not being ready is unacceptable,” he said.

Since the OUA conference added a northern campaign and introduced the Laurentian Voyageurs and Lakers into the mix, the new teams didn’t seem to affect the Hawks. But as the OUA got more and more competitive and school programs got stronger — in two short years, the tables turned. Nipissing and Laurentian found themselves in playoff positions while Laurier straddles with the final playoff position in eighth place.

And with nine games left of the regular season, four of them against the Queen’s Gaels, Toronto Varsity Blues and the Western Mustangs, it’s do or die time for the Hawks.

“These are critical games heading down the stretch, we need to suck it up and show up. It doesn’t get any easier,” Osborne said.

And they will have to figure out a way to do that as they head on the road against the Gaels and UOIT Ridgebacks next weekend. With the final stretch of games coming up until the playoffs, Osborne said it’s time for the will to take a front seat.

“It’s really going to be a test of character for the players that have to pick up the slack,” he said.

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