Gaels beat Pandas in Waterloo

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.

The Gaels played their first game of the CIS championship round-robin Friday afternoon against the Alberta Pandas. The Gaels grabbed their first lead in the playoffs with a goal by forward Liz Kench but the Pandas came back to tie the game in the second. The game was won in a shootout. Forward Kelsey Thomson was the lone scorer.

Head coach Matt Holmberg said the Gaels started the game a little bit nervous.

“It was our first championship playing against the defending champions,” he said. “Maybe there were some nerves. As we calmed down and weathered the storm, particularly after we got that goal we realized that we were in this game and we had a chance to win it.”

The Gaels are playing in a round-robin format the championship. Their pool includes the Alberta Pandas and the McGill Martlets. Queen’s has faced neither team and prepared for the tournament by focusing on their own game.

“We decided that the best thing to do in our scenario is to do nothing different,” Holmberg said. “Try to do everything exactly the same or as close to the same as we’ve been doing during this streak. Just stick to the routine.”

The game went to overtime after Alberta scored on a five-on-three in the second period. With that tying goal, the Gaels were heading to their sixth straight game to go beyond regulation. The Gaels had only been involved in four shootouts during the regular season, coming out on top only once.

“We do practise shootouts for fun every week,” Holmberg said.” With the way that Mel’s been playing and with the shooters that we have, we were pretty optimistic that we’d have a good result.”

Holmberg went with his fifth-years, forwards Liz Kench, Becky Conroy and Thomson, in the shootout.

“They’re the vets,” he said. “You’ve got to go with the players that got us here … Those three have been a part of this team for five years and have been producing amazing numbers and they want to go. They want the opportunity to end the game.”

Goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher faced 35 shots from Alberta and shut down all three Pandas in the shootout. She said the Gaels faced a different style of play from competition outside the OUA.

“Definitely a different calibre,” she said. “They had a lot of good shots, a lot of nice plays … Most of us were pretty excited just because in the OUA you only play 10 teams or so. It was nice to switch it up.”

Thomson remarked on the Gaels’ penchant for marathon games this postseason and the switch to a shootout.

“We were obviously a little nervous,” she said. “We’re used to playing a couple periods of overtime and the shootout kind of forced it but it’s okay, it came out in our favour.”

Thomson, who scored the winner in the shootout, said her shot against the Alberta goaltender was a bit lucky.

“I was coming down and I usually deke but I looked up and the goalie was so far back in her net that I just kind of flipped it in the last second,” she said. “It happened to kind of go off her shoulder and top corner.”

The Gaels face the McGill Martlets tomorrow at 4 p.m.

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

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