Fresh off hosting the women’s rugby national championship, the CIS announced Queen’s as the host for the 2017 women’s hockey national championship.
According to women’s hockey head coach Matt Holberg, Queen’s Athletic’s decision to bid to be tournament host wasn’t one they took lightly.
“They don’t want a chance to host the championship if they don’t feel that the particular team has a chance to compete for the title,” Holmberg said. “I’m certainly flattered and honoured that Queen’s has the confidence to put the bid in in the first place. I know there were other good bids that were submitted, so I’m equally flattered the CIS shares that confidence.”
As hosts, Queen’s receives an automatic entry into the eight game tournament. For Holmberg, who’s already taken a pair of teams to the tournament as OUA champions, he looks to use his experience in the 2017 tournament.
“Being part of a team that’s earned its way to a national championship in the past few years has … made us familiar with that environment, and the pressure of that week — what works and what doesn’t,” he said.
Holmberg noted that unless his team earns a berth this season by finishing in the top two in the OUA, none of the Gaels at the 2017 tournament will have previous CIS experience — as the last women’s hockey team to compete at the CIS level was in 2013. Holmberg hopes to help his players keep their composure under the high pressure of the situation.
“It’s finding that balancing act of not letting it overwhelm you,” he said. “You want to keep up the daily routines, all the things that have made you successful up to that point.”
“At the same time, it’s a very unique and rare experience that may not come around here for many, many years again. You don’t want to ignore how special it is, and certainly soak in every moment that we can, because it goes by very quickly.”
While the event can be a fun one, he added that it’s important to remember that it’s a single elimination tournament, meaning his team must win all three of their games to win the title.
“That’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “But we’ll have hopefully gone through three rounds of playoffs in a very competitive OUA prior to that. Each one of those games is just as pressure packed.”
“I would hope that by the time we reach nationals, we’d have some pretty good experience with those types of pressure games. Obviously, you’re going to line up against very good teams. It really comes down to your preparation.”
However, Holmberg knows the tournament is over 15 months away. His current team has a chance to qualify this season, as they sit second in the OUA with a 6-1-1 record.
“It certainly is fun to think about the championship already,” he said. “But our main focus is earning a berth to Calgary this season. We don’t want that announcement to take anything away from that. We’ve got a good team this year that is competing very well. If we can earn our way to the OUA championship, that’ll mean we’re going to Calgary this year.”
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