Gaels tame Lions

Women’s hockey defeats York 2-0, advances to face Laurier

Queen's forward Becky Conroy (16) tries to evade York forward Justine Jackson Saturday night at the Memorial Centre. The Gaels won 2-0.
Queen's forward Becky Conroy (16) tries to evade York forward Justine Jackson Saturday night at the Memorial Centre. The Gaels won 2-0.
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The women’s hockey team knocked off the fifth-seeded York Lions in a close, physical game Saturday night at the Memorial Centre. The Gaels triumphed 2-0.

Second-year forward Liz Kench scored the winning goal at 17:48 of the second period, and fourth-year forward Andrea LeBlanc added an empty-net goal with 18 seconds left in the game to seal the victory.

The win sets up a second-round contest between the fourth-seeded Gaels and the first-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks, who are ranked third in the country.

Queen’s goalie Melissa John—who was named the CIS Female Athlete of the Week for Jan. 21-27—was again solid, recording 30 saves to earn her third shutout of the season.

“[The shutout] felt great, but it felt even better to win,” she said.

All of John’s shutouts have come since Jan. 25, when she stopped 41 shots against the previously undefeated Golden Hawks to give the Gaels a 2-0 win, followed by a Feb. 10 shutout of the Guelph Gryphons.

“The pucks have just been staying out,” she said.

The win gives the Gaels a perfect 4-0 record against the Lions this season.

Kench’s goal was the result of some great fore-checking from linemates Amanda Morra and Becky Conroy. Morra stole the puck in York’s defensive zone and passed to Conroy, who set up Kench in the slot where she beat York goalie Megan Slumskie with a 15-foot wrist shot.

“That felt awesome,” Kench said. “I think it picked everyone up, and we had an amazing end of the game.”

Head coach Rob Lalonde said the physical game, in which both teams banged each other against the boards, didn’t surprise him.

“York is a physical team,” he said. “We knew the officiating we were getting. [The referee assigned to work the game] doesn’t call much, so it was going to be a real battle.”

A worrisome moment came for the Gaels when a York player’s elbow caught captain Cassie Sparks in the head midway through the second. Sparks fell to the ice and was slow to get up, but eventually returned to play and said she felt all right after the game.

Sparks said the hit took her by surprise.

“I did not see her coming,” she said. “She totally caught me off guard. Usually when you get hit, you’re expecting it, but I just kind of turned, she was there and I went sprawling.”

Sparks said she was prepared for a rough game.

“Every game we play against York is definitely physical,” she said. “They’re probably not the fastest, but they’re a very big team—they use their size to their advantage.”

The Gaels will host the Laurier Golden Hawks in Napanee in the first game of the three-game OUA semifinal series Friday. Lalonde said improving the team’s play in their end of the rink will be crucial.

“They’re a fast team, they’re a very aggressive team, so we’ll be making sure we work on moving the puck in our own zone.”

Lalonde said the team will have to make the most of their scoring chances to beat Laurier: they only recorded 14 shots on the Hawks’ net in their Jan. 25 victory—the Gaels’ only victory of their three games against Laurier this season.

“They’re a strong team defensively, so we’ll have to make sure we’re taking advantage of the opportunities we get to shoot the puck on net.”

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