Three standout frames

Dominant 60 minutes drive women’s hockey past Ridgebacks

Gaels captain Shawna Griffin was one of four Gaels to record three points against the UOIT Ridgebacks on Saturday.
Gaels captain Shawna Griffin was one of four Gaels to record three points against the UOIT Ridgebacks on Saturday.

An offensive onslaught in the first period fueled women’s hockey’s most dominant performance of the season.

Head coach Matt Holmberg said the team’s 6-1 victory over the UOIT Ridgebacks last Saturday was “arguably the best 60 minutes that we’ve put together all year.”

For the Gaels (7-1-2) to come away with the win, they had to put to rest a series of sluggish opening frames that plagued them in recent games, including a three-loss skid in early November.

They did so in spectacular fashion, notching three goals in the first period and taking a stranglehold they didn’t relinquish.

“[It was] really important for us to get off to a good start,” Holmberg said. “The slump that we had — if I can call it that — a couple of weeks ago, in each of those games I thought we had poor starts and the other teams got some chances. I challenged the players before the game to set the pace for themselves and be the ones to dictate the pace of play.”

Centre Fiona Lester got the Gaels on the board just over three minutes into the game, taking a feed from Addi Halladay in the slot and firing it past UOIT goalie Cassie Charette.

She added her second goal seven minutes later, scoring on a near-identical play, this time set up by Taryn Pilon. Clare McKellar extended the lead to three before the period’s close.

Holmberg said the Gaels made sure not to become complacent and let UOIT (5-4-1) back in the game. Once the game was out of reach, though, the coach gave his third- and fourth-line players extra ice time.

“In this league — with the parity that there is — even with three goals in the first, you want to make sure you’re still pushing,” he said. “Once it was 5-1, 6-1, at that point I stretched the bench out, put some different people out on power play. I felt pretty comfortable, but 3-0, no, I think we still wanted to play our game at that point.”

The Gaels sustained their pressure in the second period, but couldn’t net anything off their 10 shots in the frame.

It wasn’t until McKellar added her second marker of the match four minutes into the third that Queen’s increased their lead. Halladay and Jessica Wakefield also scored in the final period.

Goaltender Caitlyn Lahonen wasn’t tested often by the Ridgebacks, turning aside nine of the 10 shots she faced in the game.

The Gaels’ top two forward lines combined for all 16 points on the six goals. Holmberg said while these players had their names on the scoresheet, the whole team played well.

“You talk about two lines. Those were the two lines that did the scoring but I thought our other two lines weren’t rewarded for a few goals,” he said. “They were working hard as well, so it was a good team effort.”

Lester said the offensive explosion was something the Gaels were looking for at this point in the year.

“It was really exciting to put it together today,” Lester said. “Lots of offence, which we’ve been struggling a bit with in the past.”

The Gaels head on the road to face the Laurier Golden Hawks (6-3-1) tomorrow night and the Waterloo Warriors (3-5-3) on Sunday afternoon. The meeting with the Golden Hawks will mark the first time the two teams have faced off since Laurier defeated Queen’s in last year’s OUA finals.

The game will also serve as a homecoming for Lester, who spent four years at Laurier before coming to Queen’s this year.

“I’m excited to play them,” she said. “I’m sure it’ll be a great game — they’re a fast team and a great team, as always.”

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