Despite failing to play up to their potential, women’s hockey managed to come away with two points last weekend.
After losing 3-1 to the Guelph Gryphons on Friday, the Gaels barely squeaked by the last-place Brock Badgers with a 4-3 shootout victory the next night.
With the weekend split, the Gaels (13-3-3) fall into a three-way tie for second place in the OUA with Guelph (13-2-3) and the Toronto Varsity Blues (13-3-3). The Gryphons hold a game in hand on both Queen’s and Toronto.
“We’re certainly happy to get two points,” said Gaels head coach Matt Holmberg. “On the flip side, I’m not happy with how we performed. I don’t think we played to the best of our ability for a big part of the game.”
In a battle among two of the OUA’s top teams, the Gaels couldn’t get going against Guelph. They struggled against the Gryphons’ forecheck and cycle game, falling behind 2-0 early in the second period.
Defenceman Danielle Girard scored a power play goal shortly afterwards to bring Queen’s within one, but Guelph’s Christine Grant iced the game with an empty-net goal with 20 seconds left.
Queen’s (13-3-3) hosted Brock (1-13-4) Saturday night in a back-and-forth affair that saw the Gaels come out to an early lead, thanks to Addi Halladay’s pair of first-period goals.
Brock bounced back quickly, narrowing the gap with a first-period tally, then tying it up 11 seconds into the second period. The Badgers hung in with Queen’s for the entire game, answering each Gaels score up until Fiona Lester’s final shootout winner.
Last-place Brock is mathematically out of the playoffs, while Queen’s is still very much in the hunt for top spot in the OUA.
But the game wasn’t played as lopsidedly as their respective positions in the standings would suggest.
“Brock is effectively out of a playoff spot right now, and sometimes that’s a very dangerous team to play against,” Holmberg said. “We try to avoid that inclination to play down to a team’s level … we didn’t have the focus that we had hoped for.”
The game was as close as it was largely due to the Gaels’ struggles on the penalty kill. Queen’s allowed two power play goals, one in each of the first and third periods.
“The penalty kill is something that’s been a major focus for us the last couple of weeks knowing that our PK has slipped, and yet, we continue to give up PK goals,” Holmberg said. “That’s the one sore point … Obviously we want to continue to stay out of the box, but we’ve got to figure out how to get the puck out of our zone.”
In spite of the team’s struggles in the hard-fought win, there were some positives to take away from Saturday night’s game.
Holmberg was particularly impressed with the performance of Halladay. The rookie winger notched two goals in the opening period.
“As a rookie, she’s come in and contributed all season long and has come up with some big goals,” Holmberg said. “She’s proven tonight that sometimes by just getting the puck to the net, good things can happen.”
After a shootout scare against a much weaker opponent, Holmberg said the Gaels need to “take a deep breath and regroup … refocus and get going” before they head to Oshawa Thursday to take on the UOIT Ridgebacks (6-11-1).
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