Women’s hockey team splits opening weekend

Women's hockey opens No.3 in the country. (Photo by Rebecca Allison)

Women’s hockey opens No.3 in the country. (Photo by Rebecca Allison)

A powerful and heavily offensive first period helped lift the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey team to a 5-2 win over the Windsor Lancers in their home opener on Friday.

Four goals under a five-minute span helped to secure a big lead for the Hawks, who remained untouched. Despite a less than stellar second period that helped Windsor come within two, the Hawks managed to come back strong in the third to open the season on a high.

“It’s a matter of speed, tempo and pace,” said head coach Rick Osborne.

“I felt Windsor set [the pace] in the second and that’s not the way we play, we like to dictate that.”

This season saw the loss of many key players to graduation, including team captain Fiona Lester, which significantly dropped the veteran presence on the team.

“We could’ve used a couple more vets back on D tonight,” said Osborne. “But we’ll use this as a real good learning experience, [the rookies] learned a lot through the preseason.”

Despite this, Osborne is not too worried about his young team.

“I thought [Candice] Styles and [Blair] Connelly had a great game, and the second half of the game [Haley] Baxter saved our bacon back there, her conditioning really came to the forefront,” he said.

“So the big three of Connelly, Styles and Baxter when we were getting outplayed really settled things down for us.”

“[Tammy] Freiburger’s two goals up front also helped, when you’re having a tough night out there you can’t beat having a kid who can put the puck in the net like that,” he added.

The biggest story for the Hawks this year comes from between the posts, as first-year Amanda Smith seems a sure thing for the starting goaltending role; she saved 38 of 40 shots in her first career Ontario University Athletics (OUA) game Friday and stopped 25 of 26 in their 2-0 loss to Western on Saturday.

“Honestly the atmosphere’s been great here, the vets have been sticking up for us and helping us handle the pressure,” said Smith Friday after her first regular season win as a Hawk. “Without the rest of the team it’d be a bit much to handle the pressure, but with them it’s alright.”

“Smith in goal was obviously a standout, she was a standout all through the preseason as well,” said Osborne. “I expected great goaltending and we got that. She broke up their forecheck a lot by moving the puck, she’s like a third defencemen out there and that’s a skill that doesn’t grow on trees in women’s hockey.”

After holding the Mustangs scoreless through two periods on Saturday night, an early third period goal and empty net goal sunk the Hawks despite outshooting Western. But Osborne knows that there is still work to be done for this team.

“We need to win more races and more battles, even defensively we need to jump to check quicker,” he said.

“Everyone has to perform to the best of their ability, everyone’s got to be flying and everyone’s got to be focused,” added Smith.

On Tuesday, the Hawks were ranked No. 3 in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) opening rankings  for the 2013-14 season. The Hawks will look to channel their winning ways again as they face the Waterloo Warriors on Oct. 12. Puck drop is set for 2 p.m.

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