Hockey comes through in the clutch

Women beat Western Mustangs Sunday to earn playoff berth against Varsity Blues

Gaels’ forward Kristin Smith stickhandles against the Varsity Blues’ Sarah Stephen Feb. 8. The teams face off in the playoffs next Tuesday.
Gaels’ forward Kristin Smith stickhandles against the Varsity Blues’ Sarah Stephen Feb. 8. The teams face off in the playoffs next Tuesday.

The women’s hockey team got itself out of a sticky situation last weekend, losing 3-0 to the Windsor Lancers Saturday then rebounding to beat the Western Mustangs 3-2 in London Sunday to secure themselves a seat in the OUA quarterfinals against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

The Gaels got off to a poor start Sunday against Western, conceding 22 shots in the first period against a team they needed to beat in order to get to the postseason.

Forward Becky Conroy, who recorded a goal against the Mustangs, said the team needed to concentrate on playing better defensive hockey in order to avoid another first period breakdown.

“We have to be more responsible in our own end,” she said. “Sometimes we rely too much on our goalie, but we really need to bear down and play defensive hockey first and then goals will come.”

The Gaels picked their game up in the second half, going up 2-0 by the middle of the period with goals from Kristin Smith and Conroy. The Mustangs pulled one goal back at the end of the second, but Queen’s defenceman Shelby Aitcheson iced the game early in the second period with a bizarre goal from the neutral zone.

Conroy said Western played well because they were out of the playoff picture and looking to end their season on a high.

“They never stopped going and they had nothing to lose,” she said. “We knew that we had it in us to win the game.”

Goaltender Melissa John, who stopped all 22 shots in the first period to keep the Gaels alive and made 41 saves in the game, said Sunday proved the Gaels could win in the clutch.

“It was a little scary that it came down to the last game,” she said. “That hasn’t happened to me in the four years I’ve been at Queen’s but it’s nice to know we can win when we have to.”

John was in net for Queen’s 4-3 and 5-1 victories over the Varsity Blues this season. She said the entire team is confident going into the game.

“I really like playing them,” she said. “The last time we played them we were strong in all areas, so we have that confidence. No one in [our] dressing room doubts that we can do it.”

As in many aspects of Queen’s life, the women’s hockey team has a healthy rivalry alive with the University of Toronto which John said will allow the Gaels to muster the extra effort they need to win.

“U of T are our biggest rival so everyone has that little push to make that extra save or score that extra goal,” she said. “We love beating them in their own rink. It’s a great feeling.”

John said the team’s excited to face the Blues.

“We wouldn’t want to play anyone else in the quarterfinal game. It’s great that it worked out this way.”

The Gaels will face the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in Toronto at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

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