Gaels firing on all cylinders

Strong January pushes Gaels higher in OUA standings heading into playoffs

Gryphon Athletics
Gryphon Athletics

The women’s hockey team came back to Kingston Sunday night with six points and smiles on their faces after two emphatic wins on the road over the Brock Badgers and the Guelph Gryphons.

The Gaels rolled into St. Catherine’s on Saturday to face a red-hot Badgers squad riding a five-game winning streak. Led by rookie Shawna Griffin, who recorded her first CIS hat-trick, the Gaels made short work of Brock and earned a decisive 6-1 victory.

“Shawna has been consistent all year, and she’s only getting better,” said head coach Matt Holmberg. “She’s an extremely hard worker. She’s been a bit snake-bitten this year, so it’s great to see her get some bounces.”

Griffin got the Gaels off to a good start with a power play goal in the first period, and forward Kelsey Thomson scored the eventual game winner soon after. Griffin scored again in the second period and then completed an exceptional day with another in the third period. Forward Kristin Smith rounded out the scoring for the Gaels, and goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher made 19 saves in net.

On Sunday, the Gaels extended their winning streak to four games with a strong performance against the third-place Gryphons. Deadlocked at 1-1 after a Guelph equalizer had matched forward Alex Cieslowski’s early goal, the Gaels came alive in the second period, thanks to forward Liz Kench’s power play goal.

The Gaels didn’t look back, as forward Morgan McHaffie and Thomson wrapped up the game with a goal each in the third period. Goaltender Karissa Savage made 16 saves, for a 4-1 final score.

Holmberg said a strong performance from the special teams played a large part in the Gaels’ success. The Gaels held the Gryphons scoreless on seven power-play opportunities.

“Coming out of the winter break, we wanted to improve our special teams, and it has definitely been something that we’ve focused on in practice,” he said. “On Sunday, we took too many penalties, but our penalty kill really bailed us out.”

More importantly, the Gaels secured two wins on the road against strong opposition. Leading scorer Thomson said that, with playoffs looming, this weekend was all the more important.

“We knew going in that it was a big weekend in terms of the standings and that we needed four points if we wanted a chance at home ice for the quarter-finals,” she said. “Obviously, the team was very happy to walk away with two wins.”

Thomson scored two goals this weekend, to extend her point total to 31, good enough for second in the OUA. She attributes much of her success to her line mates Becky Conroy and Liz Kench.

“We’ve all played on the team for five years, so we know each other very well, and have lots of experience playing together,” she said. “Becky and I have been line mates for four years, and we’ve developed that natural sense for each other. Of course, Liz fits right in there too.”

Most importantly, Thomson said the Gaels seem to be gelling as a whole leading to the playoffs.

“We’re working harder, and it seems as if the team is coming together at the right time,”she said. “In past, we have had strong starts to the season, but might have been a bit burnt out for playoff time. Right now, we are peaking at the right time. Every line is firing, and that helps a lot.”

The Gaels now sit fourth in the OUA, just ahead of the Windsor Lancers. They host the Toronto Blues and York Lions this weekend to close out the regular season. With the standings so congested, the Gaels are still jockeying for a good playoff seed.

“This weekend is going to be very important,” Thomson said. “We have a lot of confidence right now, and we want [to] carry that into our games against Toronto and York.”

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