Banner in the bag, nationals next

Gaels advance to the CIS championship for the first time in Queen’s women’s hockey history

The Guelph Gryphons challenged the Gaels in game two of the OUA final with a very physical style of game, nevertheless, Queen’s came out on top after one overtime.
The Guelph Gryphons challenged the Gaels in game two of the OUA final with a very physical style of game, nevertheless, Queen’s came out on top after one overtime.

After five straight overtime victories in the playoffs, the women’s hockey team will head to their first ever CIS berth. The OUA champion Gaels are currently riding an 11 game winning streak extended from the regular season and could be one of the hotter teams entering the tournament ranked as the fourth seed of six.

The University of Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are hosting the tournament in Waterloo this weekend. The teams involved, in seeding order, are the McGill Martlets, the St. Francis Xavier X-Women, the Manitoba Bison, the Queen’s Gaels, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the Alberta Pandas.

The number one nationally ranked Martlets certainly look to be the favourite coming into action with their 20-0-0 regular season record and 87-22 goals for-goals against. The number two X-Women haven’t lost a game this season either; touting a 24-0-0 record in the Atlantic University Sport league and bloated 114-32 goals for-goals against, they have plenty of confidence to build on.

Yet neither of these top teams seem to have really been tested over the course of the season and could be in for a surprise faced up against the best in the CIS.

The Gaels have seen plenty of close games in their playoff runs and have proven themselves to have outstanding resilience when it counts. They have trailed in every postseason game.

The key has been the clutch play of several players when the Gaels needed to get back in. Second-year forward Morgan McHaffie led the OUA in scoring during the playoffs with three goals and five assists in five games. No goal was bigger than her sixth overtime tally against the Guelph Gryphons in the first round of the OUA finals. She also forced overtime with a goal in the third period of game two in the OUA finals to help the Gaels win the banner.

Her twin sister, Brittany McHaffie, has also been a major contributor particularly against the Laurier Golden Hawks in the second round of the OUA playoffs where she scored the second overtime game winners in both tilts.

The Gaels’ regular season point leader, Kelsey Thomson, has made some noise offensively by scoring the game-winning goal against the Windsor Lancers in second overtime and scoring a big momentum-swing goal in the second game of the OUA final as the Gaels trailed 2-0 to the Gryphons.

Other notable offensive contributors have been Becky Conroy, who scored a goal with five seconds remaining in regulation to send game one of the OUA finals to a sixth overtime, and Liz Kench whose nifty passing has accounted for three assists and many more missed opportunities. Perhaps no player has been more central to the team’s playoff run as second-year goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher. Through the team’s five playoff games she has stopped 201 of 207 shots for a .971 save percentage and a .75 goals-against-average over 477 minutes of play.

For the Gaels to succeed at this tournament they will need to keep their never-give-up formula in place. As long as the attack remains as balanced as it has with players contributing throughout the line up, other teams will have difficulties finding exactly which players to shut down.

Dodd-Moher will have to keep her magic going in Waterloo if the Gaels want a shot at the CIS championship.

Whatever the outcome, this is the first CIS berth in team history and first OUA banner in 32 years; the Gaels have already hit their goals, anything else is just icing on the cake. The team will play its first game on Friday at 4 p.m. against the loser of the Thursday Alberta-McGill game.

The tournament will run in a round-robin format until all teams have played two games. These two games will determine the fifth place, bronze medal and championship games to be played on Sunday.

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