Women’s hockey continues to roll, winning eight in a row

Gaels captain Jessica Wakefield scores last-minute shootout goals to tie and win game

Queen's celebrates against Laurentian Voyageurs.
Queen's celebrates against Laurentian Voyageurs.

On Saturday night, the Kingston Memorial Centre had a buzz unlike any regular season game this year. With the arena packed with players’ friends and family for seniors night, honouring the Class of 2017 Gaels, the women’s hockey team was looking to extend their seven-game winning streak to eight against the Laurentian Voyageurs. They rose to the occasion, defeating the Voyageurs 4-3 in a shootout.

Queen’s got off to a slow start, trailing 2-0 at the end of the first as Laurentian pressured them throughout the period, outshooting Queen’s 13-3. Goaltender Stephanie Pascal was again the difference maker, stopping 31 of 34 shots. Coach Matt Holmberg praised the “cool as a cucumber” Pascal most notably for her first period effort.

“In the first period when we weren’t at our best, she was. That first period could have been 4-0 Laurentian and thankfully she held us in there while we worked things through.”

The second period saw the Gaels bring a much stronger effort to the table, as they logged 13 shots and finally got on the board with a goal from Hailey Wilson amidst a scramble in front of Laurentian’s net.

In the third, Queen’s levelled the game early off a breakaway, scored by 2015-16 OUA rookie of the year Katrina Manoukarakis. With the period winding down and overtime seeming inevitable, Pascal was given a high floater that she failed to glove as Laurentian pounced on a rebound to make it 3-2.

Both teams sped up the pace in the final minutes until a Laurentian player intentionally dismantled her net to prevent a goal. After a short discussion, Queen’s was awarded a penalty shot. Captain Jessica Wakefield was chosen to take it. Showing patience and beautiful hands, Wakefield deked the goalie out and roofed the puck into the top of the net, sending the Queen’s bench and arena into pandemonium.

Overtime drew nothing, and in the shootout Wakefield scored again while Pascal shut the door on all three shots, giving the Gaels the win.

In the wake of their eighth consecutive win, coach Holmberg was still critical of his team, saying “there’s been a little bit of an alarming trend that we haven't been able to start games well.” Holmberg still drew positivity from the start in the comeback made by the Gaels.

“What the team is starting to show is that we have the confidence to realize, okay, we’ve got another two periods, let’s just hunker down, play our game and good things will happen,” Holmberg said. “The team is starting to establish a pretty nice identity as a team that stays in every game and won’t quit until the last buzzer.”

The streak couldn’t have been more welcome to the Gaels. Prior to the eight games, Queen’s held a 4-6 record and signs of progress were far and few between. Now, there’s a new level of excitement surrounding the team, especially with the CIS championships approaching.

Holmberg described the team’s positive outlook, saying, “[the Gaels] are developing that identity and there’s a good feeling in the dressing room about that right now.”

With six games remaining, the Gaels hit the road for two weeks and will return home for their final two games, hoping to finish strong. They currently sit in fourth in the OUA, closely following Toronto for the third spot as the season begins to wind down.

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