The women’s hockey team found moderate success last weekend at the Memorial Centre, splitting a two-game series with the eighth-ranked 14-7-1 University of Toronto Varsity Blues. On Saturday, the Blues scored with less than one minute left to lift them to a 3-2 victory. But Queen’s had the last laugh Sunday, recording a decisive 5-1 win to improve their record to 12-10-1.
Goaltender Melissa John turned away 33 of 34 shots Sunday, but said the victory was a group effort.
“I couldn’t have done it without the team,” she said. “When the team plays great, it feels like I’m playing great. Today everyone was together, everyone was pulling for each other.”
The Gaels also beat the sixth-ranked 16-6-2 Guelph Gryphons 3-1 on Feb. 1. John said the recent wins over nationally ranked teams shows the Gaels are improving their form in time for playoffs.
“It felt like something fell in place these last two weeks,” she said. “The first bunch of games we weren’t clicking on the power plays or getting the bounces. It’s a matter of working hard and now the lucky bounces will come.”
John said Queen’s enjoys the challenge of playing top teams in the OUA and will carry that over into the playoffs.
“We’ve always played better against better teams,” she said. “We’re ready for the playoffs. We want to be the team that no one wants to face in the playoffs.” Head coach Harold Parsons said he was pleased with his team’s play over the weekend against the Varsity Blues.
“Their game is nothing fancy,” he said. “They are very hard-working. We just tried to do the same thing.” The Blues played an aggressive style of game in both matches, resulting in 32 minutes in penalties over the two games compared with Queen’s 14 minutes.
“We knew that historically Toronto always takes more penalties by the way they play,” Parsons said. “If they want to play like that then we’ll take advantage.” Saturday started well for the Gaels as Kelsey Thomson notched her team-leading 15th goal less than five minutes into the game to give Queen’s a 1-0 lead. The Blues’ Darby Smith tied it up in the second but Queen’s took the lead again in the third with a goal from Kristin Smith. The Blues tied the game midway through the third and then Lindsay Hill scored with less than a minute left to ice the victory for U of T.
The power-play and penalty-killing units made the difference in the Gaels’ win on Sunday, Queen’s received power-play goals from Victoria Kaufmann, Shelby Aitcheson and Amanda Morra and also got a short-handed goal from Kristin Smith. Elizabeth Kench added the other goal for the Gaels at even strength while Shannon Smyth and Cassie Sparks both picked up two assists in the victory.
Parsons said despite the strong efforts, the team will have to revisit some fundamentals over practice this week.
“We’re still not fully happy with our play,” Parsons said. “We need to work a lot harder on the defensive side of the puck.”
With four games remaining in the regular season, the Gaels now sit in a tie for fifth place in the OUA with the Brock Badgers. They’re one point behind the fourth-place York Lions with one game in hand, but the Western Mustangs and Windsor Lancers are chasing Queen’s for the final playoff spot and are only five points back. The top six teams qualify for the playoffs.
Parsons said he’s confident that the Gaels can keep up with the best in the OUA.
“We’ve taken two of three this season from both Guelph and Toronto,” he said. “We can play with them. We’re shooting for fourth place and home-ice quarterfinals.”
Please see queensjournal.ca for a photo gallery. Queen’s will play Laurier on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Waterloo on Saturday at 2:30 pm. Both games are at home.