Bronze-lining for Gaels

The women’s hockey team brings the bronze medal home after defeating Laurier in the CIS Championship in Waterloo

Forward Kelsey Thomson rests during a break in the bronze-medal game.
Forward Kelsey Thomson rests during a break in the bronze-medal game.
Goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher returns to the dressing room after the Gaels’ 1-0 win against Laurier.
Goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher returns to the dressing room after the Gaels’ 1-0 win against Laurier.

The Gaels were the OUA’s best kept secret this year. With many outside the Queen’s community scratching their heads over the Gaels’ quick turn-around at the end of the season, the team never bowed to the intimidation of a first ever CIS berth. The women’s hockey team showed a quiet determination throughout the year that kept them battling through the challenging first half of the season. In the new year, their determination just got louder.

“We stuck to our own game plan and didn’t really bow to pressure,” head coach Matt Holmberg said. “We’ve got a good team here and if we execute we can make some noise, and that’s what we did.”

The Gaels’ game plan paid off Sunday afternoon on the biggest stage for collegiate women’s hockey in Canada. Queen’s faced off against familiar foe and OUA juggernauts, the Laurier Golden Hawks, and took them to task in a tense 1-0 win for bronze medal at the CIS Championship.

Other journalists frequently used the word ‘miraculous’ to describe the Gaels’ OUA playoff run. But Holmberg said this understated the team’s ability.

“We never looked at ourselves as a Cinderella story,” he said. “We knew we had the ability to do it but it was just a matter of getting it done.”

The Gaels faced competition from the toughest teams in the country, including the defending champions the Alberta Pandas and the undefeated McGill Martlets. Heading into the bronze medal game, the Gaels faced the Golden Hawks, their biggest competition in the OUA this year, having lost all their regular season games against Laurier. Holmberg said the Gaels had a quiet confidence heading into their Sunday game.

“Laurier is a great team,” he said. “It wasn’t overconfidence but confidence that [the Gaels] deserved to be in such a tight game with such a good team and confident in the fact that they’ve gutted out wins before. They were ready to go.”

Forward Kelsey Thomson was was an integral part of the Gaels playoff run with three goals and the shootout winner against the Pandas. She said the game couldn’t have been more exciting.

“Two great teams battling for a bronze medal,” she said. “It can’t get much better than that ... They’re a really good team but in the playoffs, I think it just came down to who really wanted it and I think we wanted it more. We just kept going.” With no score in the second period on Sunday, Laurier forward Andrea Shapero was hauled down during an attempted shot on net and a penalty shot was called. A tense moment for the Queen’s supporters in the crowd but Thomson said the Gaels bench had confidence in their second-year goaltender.

“When you get a penalty shot on Mel Dodd-Moher, you don’t even worry,” she said. “I don’t even think anyone was stressing on the bench. Everyone was just like, ‘Mel’s got this’ and of course she did.”

Dodd-Moher faced 33 shots in her first shutout of the playoffs. She was also named a tournament all-star after allowing only four goals in three games and finishing with a 0.961 save percentage. With many questions surrounding her stellar performance in the postseason, Dodd-Moher deflected the attention, chalking her play up as only one part of the team’s success.

“Each team needs goaltenders,” she said. “That’s part of the team. We’re just doing our job ... I’m just there to stop the pucks and that’s what I’m doing.”

Although facing Laurier meant the Gaels were more familiar with their opponent, Dodd-Moher said she had to be prepared for anything.

“At the end of the day, you really just have to read [the shooter] because they could pull something off completely unexpected,” she said. “It gives us a little bit of an advantage but they’re a really good team.”

With the clock ticking down, the game looked to be heading to yet another overtime for the Gaels. Defenceman Kerstin van Bolderen finally solved Laurier goaltender Liz Knox with 1:51 left in the third. Dodd-Moher said she was excited but had to remain focused to finish the game.

“There’s a minute and a half left and we have to hold on because Laurier will be coming back hard,” she said. “We just had to hold on.”

Van Bolderen buried a backhanded shot off a pass from forward Liz Kench to win. In her first goal of the season, van Bolderen scored what she said was the biggest goal of her life, although her memory of it is a little hazy.

“To be honest I don’t really remember,” she said. “I got the puck and [I was thinking] best shot of your life. It just went in. It was kind of a blur but it was pretty exciting.” This was the first trip to the CIS playoffs for the team in Queen’s history. The moment wasn’t lost on the graduating van Bolderen.

“We haven’t been [OUA champions] in 30 years,” she said. “We’ve never been to CIS. We’ll just continue to build. I’ll be cheering in the stands next year when they’re playing.”

The Road to the Bronze

W 2-1 (SO) vs. Alberta

The Gaels grabbed a lead in the first with a goal by forward Liz Kench. The Pandas tied the game on a two-man advantage in the second.

Neither team could tally again, however, sending the game to a shootout. The Gaels would score the only goal, with the game-winner coming from forward Kelsey Thomson.

L 3-1 vs. McGill

The number one seed, McGill Marlets, ended the Gaels’ 12-game winning streak, which dated back to Jan. 22. The Martlets opened scoring on a power play goal, but the Gaels battled back in the first with forward Kelsey Thomson scoring an unassisted goal midway through the frame.

With the score tied, McGill took advantage of a penalty-filled second and scored their second power play goal to take back the lead. McGill would add one more goal and hold on that lead to end the game.

Kate Bascom

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