Women’s hockey hangs on

Gaels defeat Varsity Blues Tuesday, but fall to Laurier Thursday in first game of semi-final series

Laurier’s Alison Williams tries to check Queen’s Megan McNutt. Queen’s lost 7-0.
Laurier’s Alison Williams tries to check Queen’s Megan McNutt. Queen’s lost 7-0.
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Queen’s defender Alison Bagg cross-checks Laurier’s Katherine Shirriff Thursday.
Queen’s defender Alison Bagg cross-checks Laurier’s Katherine Shirriff Thursday.
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The women’s hockey team kept its season alive with a 4-2 road victory over the ninth-ranked University of Toronto Varsity Blues in the OUA quarterfinals Tuesday night. But the Gaels put themselves in danger of elimination Thursday with a 7-0 loss to the second-ranked Laurier Golden Hawks in the first game of a best-of-three OUA semi-final series.

In Tuesday’s game, fifth-year forward Amanda Morra notched a hat trick for the Gaels and forward Becky Conroy scored the game-winning goal. Goaltender Melissa John recorded 38 saves.

Head coach Harold Parsons said it was significant to defeat Toronto in the playoffs given the Gaels’ history with the Blues.

“It was a great game,” he said. “It’s been a hell of a battle between us and Toronto over the past couple of years.”

Parsons said the Gaels’ third line of Morra, Jessi Cone and Megan McNutt was the key to their success.

“We felt our third line was the best line on either team,” he said. “Any time you can get three goals and be responsible defensively, that’s a bonus.”

Forward Victoria Kaufmann said the Gaels thought they could handle the highly-ranked Blues given their two victories over Toronto earlier this year.

“We were really confident going in and it paid off,” she said.

The Gaels got off to a strong start when Morra scored the first goal of the game 11 minutes into the first period. Toronto bounced back with a barrage of shots on John and forward Annie DelGuidice tied the score before the end of the frame. In the second period, the Varsity Blues took the lead with an early goal from Callie Balzak, but Morra recorded her second goal of the game midway through the period to tie the score. Queen’s took control in the final period with an eighth-minute goal from Conroy and Morra iced the victory less than two minutes later with a shorthanded goal.

Kaufmann said it was thrilling to see Morra record a hat trick in one of her final games for the Gaels.

“It was so exciting,” she said. “She’s always been the best penalty killer on our team and a really hard worker, so it was exciting to see that hard work pay off. It couldn’t have happened to a better player.”

Kaufmann said strong penalty killing was the key to the Gaels’ victory, especially with Morra’s shorthanded goal late in the game.

“When Amanda got the shorthanded goal, that was definitely a turnaround point,” she said.

Thursday’s game was much less positive for the Gaels. Laurier forward Alicia Martin scored the Golden Hawks’ first goal only 39 seconds into the game, and it went downhill from there for Queen’s as Laurier recorded six more goals to win 7-0.

Captain Cassie Sparks said the Gaels, who finished the regular season 13-13-1, were confident going into Thursday’s match despite Laurier’s much stronger 26-1-0 record.

“Everyone was feeling good before the game,” she said. “I don’t think we played a bad game; we just didn’t play well enough.”

Morra said the Gaels were doomed by their slow start.

“For us, we knew the first 10 minutes would make or break it, so when they scored two goals in the first three minutes of the game, it was kind of deflating,” she said.

Morra said the Gaels weren’t aggressive enough.

“We were a bit more passive than we planned,” she said.

The series now shifts back to Waterloo, where the Gaels will face Laurier at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Morra said the Gaels will come out with more intensity now that their backs are against the wall.

“The next game’s do-or-die,” she said. “At this point, we have nothing to lose.”

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