First-round advantage assured

Gaels lose to Guelph, but sit within striking distance of OUA’s top two

Despite again coming up short against a top-10 opponent, women’s hockey has clinched home-ice advantage for the first round of the OUA playoffs.

On Friday, the nationally fifth-ranked Gaels handed the Brock Badgers a major blow to their post-season aspirations, earning a hard-fought 3-2 road victory. Queen’s then fell 3-2 to the third-ranked Guelph Gryphons on Saturday.

The Gaels currently sit fourth in the OUA with a 15-3-4 record and could finish as high as second, depending on next weekend’s results. They’ll take on the last-place Ryerson Rams (5-17-1) next Saturday and the third-place Toronto Varsity Blues (17-5-1) on Sunday, marking the season finale for both teams.

“One of our goals this season was to make playoffs, and the next was to host as many rounds as possible,” said Gaels head coach Matt Holmberg. “At the beginning of the season, we believed that we should be a top-four team and we met those expectations.”

With Brock needing points to remain in playoff contention last Friday, veteran Gaels centre Shawna Griffin scored her team-leading 12th goal of the season less than three minutes into the first period to give Queen’s an early lead.

While the Badgers responded with a power-play marker later in the frame, rookie forward Nadia Larocca re-took the lead for the Gaels just 33 seconds after Brock’s goal. Gaels captain Morgan McHaffie scored the game winner at the 14:59 mark of the second period, as the Badgers were unable to capitalize on two power-play opportunities in the third.

“Brock was desperate, fighting for their playoff chances and they came out hard against us, but we managed to take the win with some hard work of our own,” Holmberg said.

The next day, the Gaels faced off against the red-hot Gryphons (19-3-0), currently ranked third in the CIS Top 10. Since losing to Queen’s on Oct. 19, the Gryphons have reeled off 16 wins in 17 games, including two victories against the OUA’s other nationally-ranked team in the OUA, the Laurier Golden Hawks (16-2-3).

After a scoreless first period of play, rookie defender Micaela Smith scored her first career CIS goal at the 10:06 mark of the second period. However, the Gryphons scored a crucial equalizer with just four seconds left in the period, one that was a turning point in the game.

The Gryphons scored two more early in the third period to push their lead to 3-1. While rookie Clare McKellar sniped one in with just under five minutes left in the game, the Gaels were unable to complete the comeback. Fifth-year goaltender Mel Dodd-Moher made 29 saves in the loss.

“We needed to keep up the intensity in our own zone for 60 minutes and good teams can capitalize on a couple of mistakes. But I thought we battled back hard and had a chance to tie it up late,” Holmberg said.

With a goal and assist this weekend, McHaffie moved within four points of tying Elizabeth Chiasson’s Queen’s and OUA points record.

The Gaels will wrap up their regular season schedule with two more road games against Ryerson and Toronto.

“We have a good shot to finish third and last year, we saw how important it was to finish as high up in the standings as possible, because we finished third and ended up facing the fourth-place team in the finals,” Holmberg said.

OUA Standings

1. Guelph [19-3-0] – 38 pts
2. Laurier [17-2-3] – 37 pts
3. Toronto [17-5-1] – 35 pts
4. Queen’s [15-3-4] – 34 pts
T5. Western [13-8-1] – 27 pts
T5. UOIT [13-8-1] – 27 pts
7. Windsor [12-8-2] – 26 pts
8. Waterloo [8-9-5] – 21 pts
9. Brock [8-13-1] – 17 pts
10. Laurentian [8-14-1] – 17 pts
11. York [5-15-2] – 12 pts
T12. Ryerson [5-17-1] – 11 pts
T12. Nipissing [5-17-1] – 11 pts

Morgan McHaffie Record Watch

With two games left in her OUA career, Gaels captain Morgan McHaffie is four points back of the all-time career scoring record.

1. Elizabeth Chiasson, Queen’s Gaels (2001-05)
62 G-93 A-155 PTS

2. Morgan McHaffie, Queen’s Gaels (2009-14)
70 G-81A- 151 PTS

T-3. Lori Dupuis, Toronto Varsity Blues (1991-97)
58 G-78 A-136 PTS

T-3. Jules Stevens, Queen’s Gaels (1985-92)
72 G-64 A-136 PTS

5. Lisa Backman, Laurier Golden Hawks (1997-01)
82 G-52 A-134 PTS

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