Gaels lose semifinal opener to Laurier

Women's hockey has one last chance to stay in playoffs

The women’s hockey team’s playoff run is barely clinging to life following the team’s 3-1 loss Friday night to the top-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks.

They’ll face the Hawks in a do-or-die situation tonight at 8:30 p.m. tonight in Waterloo: if Laurier wins, they take the best-of-three series and advance to the OUA finals.

Laurier head coach Rick Osbourne said he was slightly worried going into the game.

“The last time we were down here we lost to them, and we haven’t done that too often this year,” he said. “Secondly, we’ve had a week off … I was concerned about a little bit of rustiness, especially with [Melissa] John in goal who did a good job against us last time.”

The Gaels got off to a slow start, recording four shots in the first period to Laurier’s 15. John’s superb goaltending kept the Hawks off the board.

Gaels veteran forward Andrea LeBlanc banged home a loose puck off a goalmouth scramble 17 minutes into the first. The Gaels took a 1-0 lead into the intermission despite being on the wrong side of the shot margin, evoking memories of their Jan. 25 win, where they were outshot 13-2 in the first period.

History was not to repeat itself Friday, however. The Hawks kept up the pressure in the second period. Shortly after Queen’s forward Becky Conroy took a holding penalty, Laurier forward Lauren Barch won an offensive-zone faceoff and Stephanie Crarey blasted a slapshot from the point.

John made the initial save, but forward Andrea Ironside fired in the rebound to tie the game.

Laurier kept the Gaels pinned in their own zone, earning defender Andrea Bevan, the OUA’s assist leader, a second Golden Hawks goal at 11:50.

Laurier never relinquished the lead: LeBlanc’s goal was the only puck the Gaels could slip past Knox, who leads Ontario and is second in Canada in both goals-against average (0.98) and save percentage (.944).

Daniela Di Felice added an insurance goal in the third period. Laurier outshot Queen’s 46-16 for the game.

Queen’s head coach Rob Lalonde said the Gaels didn’t run their planned offensive and defensive plays as well as they could have.

“The forechecking system we wanted to use against this team really didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to,” he said. “We got bottled up in our own zone, we had trouble getting out of our own zone. … They’re an aggressive team, they come at you hard, so in order to beat this team, you have to move the puck quickly and effectively, and I don’t think we did that.”

John, who made 43 saves for the Gaels, said she thought she could have played better.

“They didn’t have to get those goals,” she said. “I felt they [could have been] easily prevented, so I felt a little disappointed.” Penalties and lack of shots dogged the Gaels throughout the game. The Gaels took 16 penalty minutes to Laurier’s 12, and two of the Hawks’ penalties came with only 21 seconds to go, when the game was effectively decided. LeBlanc said the team hopes to improve in both areas tonight.

“We definitely need to generate more offence,” she said. “Next game, we’re going to try and stay out of the box so we don’t give them that opportunity.”

LeBlanc said the team should be able to draw inspiration from this loss for tonight’s match.

“Obviously, it was disappointing to lose, but I feel like that got us motivated for next game,” she said. “Hopefully, next game we’ll do better.”

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