Women’s hockey is heading back to CIS nationals.
After sweeping the Western Mustangs in two games, the Gaels reclaimed their OUA title from 2011.
As the final seconds ticked down in game two, the title was far from secured.
With the Mustangs’ net empty, the Gaels protected their 5-4 lead from a Western onslaught in the final minute. Hundreds of fans rose to their feet — an extremely rare sight at Kingston’s Memorial Centre.
“It was a tough game, for sure,” said goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher, who recorded the Game 2 victory. “We scored a lot of good goals. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Her teammates were equally relieved and excited after the close finish.
“Words really can’t describe it,” captain Kristin Smith said. “We’re just really excited and we got the job done tonight.”
Smith was one of nine players to earn her second championship title since 2011, when the Gaels swept the Guelph Gryphons to claim OUA gold.
“Winning it once was great,” she said. “Winning it again is just as good as the first time.”
The Mustangs were outshot 36-27 but capitalized on three power play opportunities. A 4-1 Gaels lead turned into a 5-4 lead by the final minute, but Dodd-Moher kept her composure.
“You just got to hope the puck bounces the right way at a time like that, and it did,” head coach Matt Holmberg said.
The victory earned the Gaels a spot in the CIS national championship this weekend at the University of Toronto, where they’re ranked third of six teams.
The Gaels are in Pool B, along with the second-seeded St. Francis Xavier X-Women. The Atlantic champions went 23-1-0 in the regular season, winning all three of their playoff games to advance to nationals.
The other team in the Gaels’ group is the defending champion Calgary Dinos. Led by four-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, the fifth-ranked Dinos made it to the CIS championships as Canada West runners-up.
Calgary topped St. FX 4-0 in round-robin play yesterday afternoon. The Gaels will face the X-Women today at 4 p.m. and take on the Dinos at the same time tomorrow.
The winner of Pool B will advance to Sunday’s championship game against the top team in Pool A, featuring the Quebec champion Montreal Carabins, the Canada West champion UBC Thunderbirds and the host Toronto Varsity Blues.
The second-place finishers in each division will face off in the bronze medal game on Sunday, with the third-place teams playing for fifth.
The Gaels will need the same strong defensive play and all-around production to contend for a medal, but the players are confident they’ll do well.
“We’re really looking forward to [nationals],” fourth-year forward Brittany McHaffie said. “We definitely have a chance to win.”
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