Competing to the final whistle for women’s hockey

4-1 loss against St. Mary’s sees Gaels finish sixth at U Sports Championship

Queen’s battles for the puck against St. Mary’s.
Queen’s battles for the puck against St. Mary’s.

Very few university hockey teams in Canada can say that they played hockey on the last day of the season. On Sunday, the women’s hockey team was given that honour.

After dropping their first game in the U Sports Championship to UBC on Friday, the Gaels bounced back by defeating St. Francis Xavier, allowing them to play for fifth place in Canada against the Saint Mary’s Huskies. In what would likely be the last game for nine current Queen’s players, the Gaels fell to the Huskies by a score of 4-1.

In a game marred by penalties for both teams, Queen’s had a difficult time finding their rhythm despite outshooting the Huskies 34-23. In the fight for a final win to finish the season, both teams gave it their all in a highly physical game.

After falling behind 1-0 midway through the first period, the Gaels picked up the pace, but were unable to show for it on the score board. The second saw a similar trend, and by the conclusion of the period they found themselves in a 2-0 deficit after a late-period goal by SMU. By the third, Queen’s was in a hole they couldn’t dig themselves out of, falling behind 4-0 before scoring a late goal that appeared to be inspired by the inevitable end of the season.

“It just sort of fell in line with the other two [games]. From the drop of the puck against UBC to the last second here against St. Mary’s, our team battled well all weekend,” said head coach Matt Holmberg after the game. “We gave ourselves a chance to compete in every game and proved to ourselves that we belong in this tournament.”

When the final horn sounded, it was easy to see that the moment was bittersweet for each of the player. As the teams lined up for the player of the game awards, one of which was awarded to forward Addi Halladay, the Gaels were unable to hide their emotion. Their happiness clearly preceded their sadness as none were left dry eyed, yet every player had a Christmas-morning smile on their face.

“There are no dry eyes in the room right now because the season is over, but I know the team is very happy with how they competed,” said Holmberg, who admitted that the underlying goal of the game was to have fun. “We were focused on succeeding but didn’t want to get too concerned with some of the minor things. We just wanted to have a fun, energetic, positive last game.”

Following the ceremony, the Gaels raised their sticks to thank the crowd before locking arms and performing a rousing rendition of the infamous “Oil Thigh,” which was met with obvious pleasure from the attending alumni crowd. The home crowd gave the Gaels one last sign of appreciation as the players made their way to the dressing room.

As Queen’s begins to move into the off-season, there will be a period of reflection for the players, young and old. After the game, despite having little time to prepare his thoughts on the season, Holmberg was clearly proud of his team.

“It was a great year because we had known we would be hosting [U Sports] throughout. It’s been a fun year because of that and the attention that has. The players embraced it, tried to win an OUA championship and they didn’t take it the easy way, they took the stairs and worked hard and their hard work allowed them to compete here. I’m really proud of them,” said Holmberg before rejoining his team to celebrate the season.

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