On the edge of glory

For the third time in four years, Gaels can clinch OUA at home

After Laurier tied Game One with six seconds left, Queen’s scored on an overtime power play to take a series lead back to Kingston.
After Laurier tied Game One with six seconds left, Queen’s scored on an overtime power play to take a series lead back to Kingston.
Last year, women’s hockey swept the Western Mustangs to capture the OUA championship on home ice.
Last year, women’s hockey swept the Western Mustangs to capture the OUA championship on home ice.

When Jessica Wakefield scored in overtime on Wednesday night, she gave Queen’s a heart-stopping flashback to three years ago.

The rookie was the hero of Queen’s 2-1 road win over the Laurier Golden Hawks in game one of the OUA final, scoring to put women’s hockey one win from another provincial championship.

They can clinch the title with a win this afternoon at the Memorial Centre.

Just as the Gaels went to overtime in all five of their playoff games in 2011, Wednesday’s game marked the fourth time they’ve gone to extra time in this year’s playoffs. Their two regulation victories so far were both decided by a single goal.

While all the overtime madness evokes memories of 2011 — Queen’s first OUA championship team — head coach Matt Holmberg said this year’s squad has a very different style of play.

“There certainly could be some comparisons made. The teams we played, all three of them are the same, overtime games and that,” Holmberg said. “But over the course of three or four years, rosters change quite a bit. Other than [the opponents], things are pretty different.”

While the string of overtime games is similar to Queen’s first championship, the first two rounds of these playoffs were heavily reminiscent of last season’s title run.

In the opening round, the Gaels swept the Windsor Lancers, the same team they dispatched in the 2013 quarterfinals.

Queen’s had a tougher road in the semi-finals, splitting the first two games of their series with the top-seeded Guelph Gryphons. In game three, the Gaels held on for a 2-1 victory.

On Wednesday, Wakefield’s goal against Laurier concluded a defensive battle that almost didn’t make it to overtime.

With six seconds remaining in regulation and the Gaels up by one, Golden Hawks defenceman Blair Connelly put the puck past Queen’s netminder Mel Dodd-Moher, tying the game and forcing the extra period.

Connelly’s goal was the third time this postseason the Gaels allowed a tying goal with less than 90 seconds remaining.

For the first 50 minutes of the game, neither team was able to break through offensively.

That changed midway through the third period, when Gaels winger Taryn Pilon took a pass from captain Morgan McHaffie on a two-on-one before beating Laurier goalie Amanda Smith.

After Laurier forced overtime, Golden Hawks forward Dollee Meigs was penalized for tripping, setting the stage for Wakefield’s winner. McHaffie and defenceman Alisha Sealey added assists on the goal.

Wakefield and fellow rookie Kyla Crouse have both potted key overtime goals in the playoffs, while the Gaels have benefited from the veteran presence of McHaffie, Dodd-Moher and forward Shawna Griffin.

“They’re leading by example on the ice. All three have stepped their game up during the playoffs,” Holmberg said. “Both off the ice and the ice, all three of them have been incredible leaders on this run.”

A major key to the Gaels’ success this year has been Dodd-Moher’s rock-solid play. The fifth-year netminder has posted an OUA-best .955 save percentage and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game.

Holmberg said the Gaels need to continue playing a similar game to knock off Laurier in game two, which Queen’s hosts today at 3 p.m.

A victory would give Queen’s their third provincial title in four seasons and a berth to CIS nationals.

“I think we want to make sure we’re targeting a bit better and burying our chances,” Holmberg said.

“Beyond that, there’s no need to change what’s been working for us.”

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