Guelph guts Gaels’ golden goal

Women’s hockey searching for answers as high-expectation season ends early

Gaels forward Kelsey Thomson breaks through the Gryphon defense during the Gaels’ 7-4 loss to Guelph during game one of the OUA quarterfinal on Feb. 25 at the Memorial Centre. The Gryphons won game two in Guelph to sweep the series.
Gaels forward Kelsey Thomson breaks through the Gryphon defense during the Gaels’ 7-4 loss to Guelph during game one of the OUA quarterfinal on Feb. 25 at the Memorial Centre. The Gryphons won game two in Guelph to sweep the series.
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Gaels rookie forward Morgan McHaffie scores one of the Gaels’ four goals against the Gryphons in game one last Thursday. McHaffie will be back in the Tricolour next season.
Gaels rookie forward Morgan McHaffie scores one of the Gaels’ four goals against the Gryphons in game one last Thursday. McHaffie will be back in the Tricolour next season.
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The women’s hockey team entered the playoffs comfortably, with a seventh-place national ranking, a second-place provincial seeding and a first-round bye.

The fourth-seeded Guelph Gryphons beat the University of Toronto Varsity Blues to meet the Gaels in the OUA quarterfinal.

However, the Gryphons unleashed a strong brand of offensive hockey Queen’s couldn’t deal with, winning the first game 7-4 and the second 5-2, sweeping the series and upsetting the Gaels.

Women’s hockey head coach Matt Holmberg said the Gaels weren’t overconfident entering the games against Guelph.

“We were confident that we could win, we had more points than them this season, we won the season series 2-1, when you consider those factors some might consider it an upset,” he said. “Were we surprised? We were surprised we lost, but we knew they would give us a fight. ... After all, the last time we played Guelph they beat us 4-0 at home and that wasn’t too long ago.”

In the first game, the Gaels opened the scoring with an early marker from forward Alana Smith, but couldn’t take the lead into the period break as Guelph forward Erin Small slotted home her first of an eventual three goals. Guelph opened the second period’s scoring, putting the Gaels on their back leg, but they fought back with two goals from forwards Morgan McHaffie and Liz Kench. However the Gryphons closed out the second strongly as well, notching two more goals to end the period 4-3. Guelph opened the third with a blast, scoring three goals in six minutes taking the score to 7-3. The Gaels salvaged a goal through forward Becky Conroy but the story was written.

The second game was much of the same for the Gaels. The Gryphons jumped out to an early 1-0 lead which they took into the second period. The Gaels and Gryphons exchanged goals in the second, taking a 2-1 score into the third period. Guelph notched two goals in 10 minutes to start the third period, and while the Gaels managed to get a goal back courtesy of Kench, but Guelph scored another goal late in the third to solidify the series for the Gryphons.

Holmberg said although the Gaels held a national ranking all season, they didn’t take the ranking for granted.

“I wouldn’t say that the rankings played into our minds at all,” he said. “They were there for everyone to see all season but we didn’t put a lot of weight on that. I was surprised that Guelph wasn’t ranked for the better part of the season.”

The Gaels started rookie goaltender Mel Dodd-Maher for their games against the Gryphons. Holmberg said he doesn’t think the pressure of playoff games overwhelmed her.

“They had a rookie goalie going in as well,” he said. “Mel had, all season, withstood any pressure that might have been there and had proven to the team and to herself that she could withstand any pressure that might be there.”

Captain Allison Bagg said the Gaels tried to improve on their intensity between games as most of the goals against them in the first game came from relaxed play.

“We said that if we played our best we would beat them,” she said. “There was a stretch of a couple of minutes in the first game where they really took it to us and we gave up a few goals, so we needed to bring intensity to every shift and not take any shifts off.”

With only Bagg in her last year of eligibility, Holmberg said things are only looking up for the Gaels.

“It looks at this point like we’ve got lots of players back, and it’s possible that we’ll have almost the whole team back. Coupled with some very good recruits that plan on coming to Queen’s next year, it’s impossible not to be optimistic.”

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