New year, new problems

Women’s hockey falls twice to York, hasn’t scored on power play since November

Gaels Cassie Sparks (37) and Victoria Kaufman (27) fight for the puck against York’s Courtney Unruh Saturday.
Gaels Cassie Sparks (37) and Victoria Kaufman (27) fight for the puck against York’s Courtney Unruh Saturday.
Queen’s forward Victoria Kaufman (27) battles York defender Michelle Daniels for the puck Saturday. The Gaels lost 4-1.
Queen’s forward Victoria Kaufman (27) battles York defender Michelle Daniels for the puck Saturday. The Gaels lost 4-1.

The new year hasn’t been kind to the women’s hockey team. The Gaels went into the break with a 9-5-1 record, but they’ve lost all three of their games in January. The Gaels started with a 3-0 loss to the 3-14 University of Oshawa Institute of Technology Ridgebacks on Jan. 10 before falling 6-1 and 4-1 to the 8-10 York Lions Friday and Saturday at the Memorial Centre.

After Saturday’s loss, head coach Harold Parsons said this was the worst stretch of play he has seen in his time with the team.

“I’ve never seen a slump like this,” he said. “I’ve been with this team for eight years and I’ve never seen two weekends like this. … I’m sort of at a loss for words.”

Parsons said his team might have underestimated UOIT and York, squads that have played better recently than they have in the past.

“Some of the problem is everyone wants to look at the schedule and count the wins before they happen,” he said. “I guess it’s a reflection of the league improving.”

In their three losses in the new year, the Gaels have only scored two goals and have gone zero for 23 on the power play. Parsons said the team has to focus on producing more scoring chances.

“We’re moving the puck around too much and not creating enough,” he said.

The weekend got off to a decent start for the Gaels, as they held York scoreless for most of the first period Friday night. The Lions scored a controversial late goal in the final minute of the first and the air seemed to rush out of the Gaels. They were unable to produce on numerous power-play opportunities, including one five-on-three spell of almost two minutes. York added two quick goals in the second period and then three more in the third. Queen’s forward Kelsey Thompson managed to break the team’s five-period scoreless slump late in the game, but her goal was too little too late.

Parsons said the Gaels had some hard luck.

“Two goals went in off skates,” he said. “Anything that could go in did.” Parsons said the team was going to forget about analyzing the loss and just focus on improvement going forward.

“We’re just fighting it right now,” he said. “If we have to analyze this game, we’re going to be here forever.” Captain Cassie Sparks said York took advantage of their opportunities while the Gaels didn’t.

“Today definitely was about bounces,” she said. “They capitalized on all our mistakes.”

Sparks said the team planned to focus on returning to fundamentals.

The approach didn’t work Saturday, though. York forward Mandy Cole tipped a puck past Queen’s goalie Melissa John midway through the first to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. Riley Edwards added a second marker to put York up 2-0 going into the first intermission, and Kelsey Webster added a goal in the second period to give the Lions a 3-0 lead. Victoria Kaufman scored for Queen’s in the third and the Gaels pulled John with three minutes left to try and tie the game up, but York’s Jessica Turi scored an empty-net goal to ice the game.

Kaufman said the Gaels were disappointed with their play.

“Obviously we were hoping for a lot better,” she said. “It’s definitely frustrating because we had a lot of opportunities today, a lot of chances to put the puck in the net.”

Kaufman said part of the scoring slump might be due to the team putting pressure on themselves.

The Gaels go on the road to play the 8-7-3 Brock Badgers twice next weekend.

John said she’s confident they’ll do better in those games and the ones to follow.

“We play some pretty good teams coming up and that’s when we shine,” she said. “We’ve just got to find a next level.”

The Gaels will play Brock at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Both games are in St. Catherines.

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