Filling in the blanks

Gaels ride extended shutout streak to first place in OUA

Fifth-year defender Katie Duncan is tied for 19th in OUA scoring with 13 points, having netted four goals in 15 games.
Fifth-year defender Katie Duncan is tied for 19th in OUA scoring with 13 points, having netted four goals in 15 games.
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It’s been 10 periods since the women’s hockey team last gave up a goal.

Back-to-back shutouts at home last weekend continued a dominant streak for the Gaels, who dispatched the Toronto Varsity Blues 4-0 and the Ryerson Rams 3-0.

Queen’s has given up only 18 goals this season, best in the OUA. Goaltenders Karissa Savage and Mel Dodd-Moher have split time in net, combining for seven shutouts. Savage sits at the top of the OUA in goals against average and save percentage.

“It takes a real team effort to play good defensive zone coverage,” said head coach Matt Holmberg, “And that’s what we’re getting.”

The Gaels are also being helped by solid special teams play. The team’s power play is converting on an OUA-leading 25 per cent of their opportunities.

The penalty kill has overcome a slow start to the season, sitting fifth in the OUA and perfect through Queen’s current five-game winning streak.

But the penalty kill hasn’t been seen often this season, as the Gaels are the least penalized team in the league — something Holmberg has wanted since the start of the season.

“I’m certainly proud of the team’s ability to turn the other cheek,” he said. “That’s been a big part of our success, to be able to play five-on-five or power play.”

On the offensive side of the board the Gaels are led by centre Morgan McHaffie’s 23 points, second in the OUA. Wingers Taryn Pilon, Brittany McHaffie and Courtenay Jacklin and centre Shawna Griffin also sit among the league’s top 20 scorers.

Katie Duncan and rookie Alisha Sealey both rank in the top five for points by defenders, with 13 and 12, respectively.

“It was going to be a key thing for us this year to make sure we get the depth of scoring,” Holmberg said. “In order for this team to be successful, we need all three lines going.”

That balance was on display last weekend, with nine different players recording points against Toronto and Ryerson. The two wins bring the Gaels’ win total this season to 13, one fewer than they had all of last year.

Their current success brings to mind the Gaels team that captured the 2010 OUA championship, but the team isn’t thinking about past results.

“We enjoyed it while it happened, but we’re really trying to move on,” said Gaels captain Kristin Smith. “We’re playing with the players we have now and I think we have a really good chance if we keep playing our game.”

Forward Brittany McHaffie, who set up all three goals in the Gaels’ win over Ryerson, believes the team’s balance will pay dividends in the postseason.

“We have a lot of good new recruits [and] our vets are playing the best they’ve ever played,” McHaffie said. “I think we’re going to go far.”

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