Working towards the national championships

Team looks to regular season to build to CIS final eight

Addi Hallady had eight points in 24 games last year.
Addi Hallady had eight points in 24 games last year.
Journal File Photo

At the beginning of a new season, it’s almost become a formality for teams to force-feed the phrase “new season, new start” when asked about their approach to the season ahead. Not for Queen’s women’s hockey team.

In the 2015-16 season, the Gaels finished third in the OUA standings, displaying their consistency and ability to play with the best universities in Ontario. With their success last season, the Gaels have finished top four in the province for the past eight years and they don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Though head coach Matt Holmberg classified last season as a success, the way their season came to a conclusion brings this team into the season with a little more than a chip on their shoulder.

In a highly competitive and intense matchup with Nipissing University in the first round of conference playoffs, the team dropped their first game 2-1 and went on to lose the second 3-2 in near-comeback fashion. The slim-margin nature of the series made the loss particularly difficult for the team to swallow.

But, as the season nears, the team’s rivalry will be rekindled as they are set to play Nipissing this Saturday.

“When people ask me what went wrong I said, ‘you know, we played well, Nipissing just scored two more goals than us and there wasn’t a lot to differentiate between our teams’,” Holmberg said.

“They got a couple bounces and that’s the way it went.”

Entering the 2016-17 season, the Gaels only have a positive outlook for the future ahead. Despite losing six players to graduation — the only players who had won an OUA championship in 2012-13 —  leadership is not lacking on the current team. With a roster consisting of 12 players in third year or higher, Queen’s boasts a team that has the experience in high-intensity atmospheres to lead a young and energized group of players.

Gaels goaltender Claire Warren sees this  balance between youth and experience as an advantage. 

“The rookies we have each bring a unique set of skills to the team that definitely fill the hole that was maybe left by an upper year moving on,” Warren said. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Warren says that the fourth years bring a lot of experience and a lot of leadership to the team.

Leadership isn’t the only quality that this team prides itself on. According to Warren, this year’s squad is exceptionally fast. 

“We are quick in the other team’s end but we are also very quick to get back and help out our teammates. Watching us skate I know that we can skate with any team that we play with and we have that extra gear to use our speed as a weapon going forward,” she explained.

However, while creating chances is an important part, finishing is the final and crucial piece to the puzzle. 

With Queen’s hosting the national CIS Championships in March, the team will be given an automatic qualification to the tournament. While they call it an an “express elevator” to get the championships, captain Lauren Wakefield declares the team’s motto is — “We want to take the stairs to get there.”  

“We’re focusing on every practice, every game, every workout.”

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