Women’s hockey raring for OUA glory

Gaels looking to build on season that saw them place sixth in country

Women’s hockey finished sixth at last year’s U Sports championships.
Women’s hockey finished sixth at last year’s U Sports championships.
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The women’s hockey team’s 2016-17 campaign was a wild ride. In a season with impressive winning streaks, lengthy overtime games and a trip to the U Sports Championships as the host, Queen’s made their mark on the Canadian university hockey scene.

Going into their upcoming season, the Gaels are aiming to build on the foundation that helped them succeed last season.

“I think that there is great excitement about this year,” head coach Matt Holmberg said, who is returning for a 12th season behind the bench.

In a regular season of ups and downs, Queen’s finished in a tie for fifth in the OUA. During the provincial playoffs, the Gaels dropped their quarterfinal match-up in a highly contested three-game series against the University of Toronto.

After being awarded the distinct honour of hosting the U Sports Championships prior to the season getting started, Queen’s was given automatic entry into the tournament. Although they lost 2-1 in the first round, the hosts put up an inspiring showing against the top-seeded UBC Thunderbirds. Once it was all over, Queen’s finished in sixth place.

Without automatic entry into nationals this year, Holmberg believes the team has a more clear direction that they want their season to go.

“Last year was a fantastic year and we were very privileged to host nationals, but that was always layered on top of everything we did. This year it’s very simple: we need to win an OUA championship to go to nationals,” Holmberg said.

The Gaels enter this season with a unique variety of youth and experience. To complement their five recently acquired freshmen, Queen’s has 15 returning players who have a wealth of experience from playing on the national stage. 

Left wing Addi Hallady believes last year’s opportunity will have a big factor in the team’s success this season.

“The games we had at nationals were awesome games…with the amount of girls coming back that got to experience that, we can kind of tell our first years what the experience was like. It was a great experience and we want to build off of that,” she said. Halladay was the Gaels’ leading scorer last year with 13 goals. She finished the season with 16 points.

Progress will also be one of the main themes for the Gaels this year. Each season, it’s a staple for the team to cultivate a team mantra that encapsulates the mindset they want to achieve on a daily basis. This season, it is “greater than yesterday.”

“To us as a team, that means building off the things we did the day before or the game before,” Halladay said.

The Gaels are already embodying their mantra, as they’ve already put up strong preseason performances that have given Holmberg an early sense of positivity.

“The players are certainly living that model early…there’s a great arc that’s happening and yet the team isn’t satisfied with where it is right now in terms of our progression,” Holmberg said.

Because of the early structure of the team’s season being solely focused on improving each day without looking towards a long-term goal, Holmberg is tentative to make a championship season the sole determinant of success. 

But from evaluating the Gaels’ first impressions, he has a tremendous amount of belief in his team.

“We as a team never set wins and losses as a part of our team goals…[but] there is early confidence that we do in fact have the pieces in place to earn an OUA championship,” Holmberg said.

 

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