Queen's underdogs can't kill McGill

The Queen's Journal's Kate Bascom, Justin Tang and Lauri Kytomaa are in Waterloo, Ontario this weekend, covering the Gaels' bid for the CIS championship.

By Lauri Kytömaa
Assistant Sports Editor

The Queen’s Gaels finally met their match on Saturday as they faced up against the number one seed McGill Martlets in the second game of the CIS round-robin. While the story of the postseason for the Gaels had been resilience under deficits, there would be no coming back against the Martlets who have yet to lose a game in 26 games this season. Nevertheless the Gaels put up a valiant effort against the Goliath that has outscored its opponents 94-25, falling 3-1 in regulation.

The Martlets opened up the scoring quickly in the first period suggesting that the game could very well spiral out of the Gaels’ control. A penalty on Queen’s defenceman Katie Duncan just 55 seconds into the period provided McGill just the room it needed to slide a puck under goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher’s pads and take a one to nothing advantage.

The first strike failed to deter the Gaels as they battled back and forward Kelsey Thomson scored an unassisted goal 9:34 into the period. The score was tied at the end of the first but other statistics still suggested a discrepancy: for one the shots were 16-7 in favour of McGill.

Penalty calls certainly factored into this difference between the teams. In the first period the Gaels took four infractions while the Martlets took three, but in the second only the Gaels would be called on violations. McGill was able to take the lead on a power play 5:30 into the second frame. The goal provided them just the surge of momentum they needed to break things up. Under three minutes after this go-ahead goal was scored, they potted another goal to take a 3-1 lead over the Gaels.

As the second period approached its close, even more disheartening signs showed for the Gaels. With 2:42 left in the period, Thomson, the team’s lead scorer in the regular season, was hit with a puck and stumbled limply to the bench. She would return to the game but her speed seemed to take a hit for the rest of the game. Also about a minute after Thomson fell down, a McGill player checked forward Brittany McHaffe straight into the boards from behind, right in front of the referee: no call.

The Gaels entered the third period with a two-goal deficit. Because each of the Gaels’ playoff games had come after trailing at some point in the game, head coach Matt Holmberg said the team couldn’t help but feel that they could do it again.

“It’s funny we’re down 3-1 against McGill and the team’s still quietly confident,” he said. “We’ve just done it so many times. We just knew that we’re still in this, we still have a shot at this right to the last second.”

The team’s tempo was there, but they were simply outmatched by a confident McGill team. The physicality flared up for the Gaels. Holmberg said that the physicality was part of the plan all along.

“I think that it was a part of our game plan to get on them physically,” he said. “Obviously we weren’t trying to do it to take a penalty but we certainly wanted to let them know that we were there and try to get in their face a little bit.”

Yet sustained time in the Martlet’s zone was hard to come by: the game ended 3-1, giving the Gaels their first loss of the 2011 playoff run. Gaels captain Michelle Hunt said that the Gaels didn’t leave anything on the table.

“Losing is always disappointing but we gave it our all. I think overall our team played really well,” she said. “They’re a great team. They’re number one in the country. We had a game plan and I think we stuck to it. It was difficult with the penalties we had because they have a great power play.”

Their 1-1 CIS round-robin record will send them to the bronze medal game at 4:00 p.m. Sunday where they will face the Laurier Golden Hawks for the sixth time this season. Their last meeting was in the OUA semi-final where the Gaels swept them in two games that both went to double overtime. A win tomorrow could provide a bronze-lining for the Gaels’ OUA banner season.

“It’s awesome especially for Queen’s,” Hunt said. “We gave it our all out there so we can’t take anything away from that. It’s been a great season.”

Please visit The Rejects Blog for more photos from Justin Tang at the CIS Championships.

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