Women’s hockey in battle for OUA top spot

Gaels split weekend games, have sights on final weekend of regular season

Gaels forward Clare McKellar overseeing the ice against Waterloo.
Gaels forward Clare McKellar overseeing the ice against Waterloo.
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With just two games left in the regular season, the women’s hockey team has showed no signs of relinquishing their top spot in the OUA.

Over the weekend, the Gaels inched closer to clinching the first position in the OUA with a 3-0 win against the Laurier Golden Hawks. Although they lost Saturday’s game to Waterloo 4-1, the Gaels are still three points ahead of Western in the OUA standings.

Friday’s shutout win against Laurier was the Gaels’ third straight game in which they kept their opponent off the scoresheet. Looking back at the weekend overall,  head coach Matt Holmberg was pleased with the team’s play.

“Certainly a bit of a goalless streak is an excellent example that we’re on the right page,” Holmberg said. “From that perspective, I’m happy.”

Recently, Holmberg’s central focus for his team has revolved around their defensive play. He told The Journal this has meant keeping their opponents' shot totals low and maintaining a strong penalty kill. Evident during their three-game shutout streak, they’ve done this to near perfection.

Currently, the Gaels rank first in the OUA in penalty kill percentage (94.6) and second in total save percentage (.939). In their loss this weekend, Queen’s outshot Waterloo 34-17.

“You do that in a game … there’s a lot of positives but there’s another example of this league and how tight it is,” Holmberg said.

The level of parity in the OUA is something Holmberg has mentioned consistently to The Journal this season. With two games left for most teams, this rings true more than ever and has created numerous scenarios for the Gaels to lose hold of their provincial lead.

With two wins, the Gaels would secure first place. But if they only get a win and a loss, Western and Guelph would have the opportunity to surpass Queen’s in the standings. Guelph currently sits four points behind Queen’s while Western is just three points behind the Gaels. While all three teams maintain a strong playoff position regardless, the first place team is ensured home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We can easily take care of things by winning both. It’s close,” Holmberg said. With an 11-1 record at home and a 6-1-3 record on the road, home-ice advantage could be critical for the Gaels as they make a push for their first OUA banner in five years.

“Given how well we’ve played at home, that would be huge for us. We’d like to go deep and go deep knowing we’re hosting as we keep going,” Holmberg said.

On top of this, Holmberg and the Gaels will be chasing history this weekend. If Queen’s finishes first in the OUA, it’ll be the first time they’ve done so in the regular season since the 1989-90 season. But for now, Holmberg is adamant his team remain must focused this coming weekend, when they take on U of T and Ryerson.

“It’s all within our control [but] it’s going to require a good weekend from us,” Holmberg said. “I know we can do it. It’s there for the taking and we just want to try and finish as strong as we can.”

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