Rebuilt & ready

Defending champions reload in search of another OUA crown

Queen’s opens their title defence at home tonight.
Queen’s opens their title defence at home tonight.
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Despite the loss of several important veterans, women’s hockey could still be repeat OUA champions.

Last season, the Gaels went 20-4-2, setting a school record for wins before sweeping the Western Mustangs to capture the OUA title.

The team begins their title defence tonight at home against the UOIT Ridgebacks with a very different roster from last season.

With the departure of 10 players from last year, the new squad will rely on the few remaining veterans, while 11 rookies work their way into the lineup.

Chief among the returnees is new captain and All-Canadian Morgan McHaffie. The fifth-year centre was third in the OUA in scoring last season with 33 points. Despite the graduation of her linemate and twin Brittany, she should still be in the top three for scoring in the league.

McHaffie currently sits tied for ninth in OUA career scoring with 122 points. If she plays like she has during the last two seasons, she could pass former Queen’s player Elizabeth Chiasson atop the all-time OUA leaderboard.

She enters the season 33 points behind Chiasson.

“Morgan is a very skilled player and can put up points,” head coach Matt Holmberg said. “At the same time, she’s also very sound defensively. In terms of a full 200-foot player, Morgan’s a great player in that respect.”

McHaffie won’t be the only forward contributing offence this season, as winger Taryn Pilon and centre Shawna Griffin will look to build on the past seasons, where they put up career highs in points.

Also back is second-year winger Courtenay Jacklin, whose 13 goals led the team last year.

Third-year Chelsey Verbeek and a slew of rookie forwards will provide additional depth scoring for the Gaels, something Holmberg is looking for.

“There’s no doubt in my mind — and this is no disrespect to the players from last year — but we have more depth,” he said.

While the Gaels will be strong offensively, the team’s best play arguably comes in their own zone. Other than Katie Duncan, the Gaels’ top defencemen return to build on a season that saw Queen’s give up an OUA-low 43 goals.

Third-year assistant captains Danielle Girard and Mary Coughlin provide a steady veteran presence on the back end with fourth-year Marlee Fisher, while Alisha Sealey looks to build on her OUA all-rookie campaign.

For the first time in four years, the Gaels will not be backstopped by the pair of Mel Dodd-Moher and Karissa Savage, due to Savage’s graduation. Dodd-Moher will be joined this year by NCAA transfer Caitlyn Lahonen, who previously played for St. Lawrence University in New York.

Both netminders should be able to keep the Gaels among the league-leaders in goals against, one of the goals the team has set for the year.

Queen’s is one of four upper-echelon teams battling for top spot in the OUA, with the others being Western, the Guelph Gryphons and the Laurier Golden Hawks.

The Gaels should be able to make it past the first round this year. If they can avoid mistakes due to inexperience, they could be repeat champions.

“I think it’s fair to say we’ll be in the mix among the top four teams in the OUA,” Holmberg said. “Hopefully things fall in place come playoff time.”

Top OUA All-Time Scorers

1. Elizabeth Chiasson Queen’s Gaels

62 G-93 A-155 PTS

T-2. Lori Dupuis

Toronto Varsity Blues

58 G-78 A-136 PTS

T-2. Jules Stevens

Queen’s Gaels

72 G-64 A-136 PTS

4. Lisa Backman

Laurier Golden Hawks

82 G-52 A-134 PTS

5. Jackie Cherevaty Toronto Varsity Blues

56 G-72 A-128 PTS

6. Tamara Bell

Guelph Gryphons

50 G-77 A-127 PTS

7. Elizabeth Kench

Queen’s Gaels

47 G-77 A-124 PTS

8. Andrea Hunter

Toronto Varsity Blues

60 G-63 A-123 PTS

T-9. Andrea Ironside Laurier Golden Hawks

58 G-64 A-122 PTS

T-9. Morgan McHaffie Queen’s Gaels

59 G-63 A-122 PTS

Instant Replay

Revisiting the Gaels’ 2012-13 season.

OCT. 27, 2012

After Laurier battled back to tie the game, Brittany McHaffie scored the overtime winner to give Queen’s a 4-3 victory — their only win over the Golden Hawks last year.

Feb. 11, 2013

Queen’s beat Waterloo 2-1, securing third place in the OUA. Had the Gaels lost, they would not have had home-ice advatange in the OUA finals.

FEB. 20, 2013

The Gaels beat Guelph on the road 4-2 in game 1 of the OUA semi-final, ending the Gryphons’ 16 game winning streak and avenging their 7-2 loss earlier in the season.

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