Gaels fly past Ridgebacks

Women’s hockey completes season sweep over UOIT with pair of weekend wins at the Memorial Centre

Forward Jess Cone moves around a sprawled Ridgeback defender during the Gaels’ 4-3 overtime win on Saturday at the Memorial Centre. The Gaels also beat UOIT on Sunday.
Forward Jess Cone moves around a sprawled Ridgeback defender during the Gaels’ 4-3 overtime win on Saturday at the Memorial Centre. The Gaels also beat UOIT on Sunday.

In a weekend series against the last-place University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks, the nationally-ranked women’s hockey team grabbed four important points at the Kingston Memorial Centre. An overtime victory on Saturday saw the Gaels win a 4-3 nailbiter followed by a more decisive 5-2 win on Sunday afternoon.

Captain Alison Bagg said the team rebounded on Sunday after a late game collapse forced them into extra time.

“We came out a bit flat yesterday. We didn’t really pick it up and they out skated us in key times,” she said. “We were really happy that we could have a higher scoring game and control the play a bit more.”

On paper, the Gaels should have breezed past the 4-15-4 UOIT both days. But Saturday’s close game wasn’t a shock to Queen’s.

“It didn’t really surprise us,” Bagg said. “They’re always a hardworking team, they’re a pretty fast team. But we just made sure that we outworked them today.”

Saturday’s game was tied at one with a first period goal by forward Kelsey Thomson until the third. Forwards Morgan McHaffie and Elizabeth Kench added goals in the last period to give the Gaels a comfortable lead. A costly cross-checking penalty to Gaels’ defenceman Michelle Hunt kicked off a UOIT offensive burst during which the Ridgebacks tied the game with two goals in under a minute. Hunt found redemption by scoring the game winner halfway through overtime.

There was no last-minute change in strategy for Sunday’s game, head coach Matt Holmberg said.

“The message to the girls was to continue to go hard and do the things we do best,” he said. “We came into this afternoon’s game with a very positive attitude which started the game well and continued through it.”

Forward Megan McNutt opened scoring halfway through the first period, only to see the Ridgebacks respond a minute later. Queen’s controlled the rest of game. Forwards Morgan McHaffie and Kristin Smith notched two goals each.

Coach Holmberg said the four points were extremely important to remain in second place in the OUA standings, still eight points behind the perfect Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks, who have two games in hand.

“We’re thrilled to get four points,” he said. “Even though [UOIT] is below us in the standings they played very hard.”

With four games left in the regular season, the Gaels’ coaching staff has been preparing for their final matchups which include tough competition against the Western Mustangs and the Golden Hawks. Holmberg said the team is taking their final games one at a time but that there’s work to be done before the playoffs.

“We’re happy with where we are right now in terms of offence,” he said. “We just need to shore up some of our defensive zone coverage, not allowing goals late in the game and making sure we get the puck out when it’s on our stick.”

The Gaels host the Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs this weekend at the Memorial Centre. They play the Lancers at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and the Mustangs at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

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