Back to winning ways

Women’s hockey rides a three-game win streak into OUA playoff series against York

Winger Alana Smith scored the game-winning goal against the Ryerson Rams on Saturday.
Winger Alana Smith scored the game-winning goal against the Ryerson Rams on Saturday.

The women’s hockey team’s motto for the final weekend of the regular season was “finish strong.”

They did just that in Toronto, beating the Ryerson Rams 4-3 on Saturday and Toronto Varsity Blues 3-0 on Sunday to finish fourth in the OUA and earn home-ice advantage for a best-of-three first-round playoff matchup against the York Lions that starts on Wednesday night.

The Gaels have played the Lions twice this season, with both games going to overtime — the Gaels won 3-2 in Kingston on Dec. 3, but lost 2-1 in Toronto on Jan. 14.

Head coach Matt Holmberg said he expects the first-round series to be just as close.

“They work really hard ... they’ve got one line in particular that have had really good offensive snap this year,” he said, referring to the Lions’ trio of Kristie Wilson, Katrina Tollis and Stephanie Dovaston. On Saturday, the Gaels trailed the Rams 3-2 in the third period until forward Alexandria Biglieri tied it up halfway through the frame. Forward Alana Smith scored the winner with less than three minutes remaining in the game.

Forward Brittany McHaffie scored two goals on Saturday against the Varsity Blues, her first since returning from a knee injury on Jan. 28. Holmberg said McHaffie benefitted from intensive therapy work with the team’s trainers.

“Her knee is still bothering her a bit, but she’s pretty close to 100 per cent,” he said. “She’s ready to go for the playoffs.”

Brittany’s sister, Morgan McHaffie, posted an assist to finish the season at the top of the OUA scoring list, with 16 goals and 22 assists in 25 games.

The Gaels opened 2012 with two wins in nine tries. But after losing 7-0 at home to the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks on Feb. 3, they’ve won three games to close out the regular season.

Holmberg said his team’s power play and penalty kill have been crucial to the turnaround. On Sunday against the Varsity Blues, the Gaels scored two power-play goals and killed seven penalties.

Although goaltenders Karissa Savage and Mel Dodd-Moher have been splitting playing time this season, Holmberg will pick a starter before Wednesday. He hasn’t announced his decision.

“Karissa held us in there against Ryerson. [They] had some jump and she was forced to make some key saves early,” he said. “And [against Toronto], Mel was fantastic, the shutout says it all.”

Dodd-Moher, the starter during last year’s OUA title run, made 42 saves against the Varsity Blues on Sunday for her second straight shutout. Savage has a 2.38 goals against average and a .915 save percentage in 12 starts this season.

The Gaels and the Lions play at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday night at the Memorial Centre before moving to Toronto for game two on Friday night. Game three, if necessary, takes place at the Memorial Centre on Sunday night.

— With files from Gilbert Coyle

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