Women's hockey roll into second round of OUA playoffs

Win on Friday would push Gaels into McCaw Cup Finals

Stephanie Pascal had 40 saves on Wednesday.
Stephanie Pascal had 40 saves on Wednesday.
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Supplied by Shawn MacDonald

After an overtime 3-2 win against the Nipissing Lakers in North Bay on Wednesday, the women’s hockey team find themselves one win away from the OUA finals.

In a tightly contested affair, they won game one of the OUA semi-finals with a goal from Taylor Hicks eight minutes into overtime. Now leading the series 1-0, Queen’s needs just one win to sink the Lakers and play for the McCaw Cup.

“That was one of those fun playoff games,” head coach Matt Holmberg told The Journal on Thursday morning. “The line kind of becomes blurred between being a coach and being a fan.”

Although Hicks will be remembered for her late game heroics, goaltender Stephanie Pascal quietly continued her strong play in net, stopping 38 of the Lakers’ 40 shots. In arguably her most important save of the night, Pascal stopped a Nipissing shot with a clutch pad save early in overtime.

Game one’s overtime thriller wasn’t the first time Queen’s had faced adversity in these playoffs. The Gaels won their first-round matchup with the Waterloo Warriors 2-1. The series was defined by strong goaltending, tight score lines and playoff jitters.

“None of us were really shocked it went three games,” Holmberg said of his team’s series win over Waterloo. “The parity in the league is pretty great.”

Despite winning the first game by a slim margin of 2-0, the Warriors bounced back in game two. With the Gaels looking to close out the series at home, Waterloo stifled Queen’s and took the game 2-0.

“The biggest takeaway was how extremely happy and proud I was by the resilience the team showed after game two,” Holmberg said. He explained the result of game two delivered a blow to the Gaels, who hadn’t seen second-round playoff hockey since February of 2014. 

“For the young players that was a first and a huge stepping stone for them.”

With their next game on Friday night at the Kingston Memorial Centre, the Gaels could end the series against the Lakers with a sweep on home ice. If Nipissing pushes the series to a third and deciding game, the teams will play on Saturday night in Napanee at the Strathcona Paper Centre.

With less time to prepare for games compared to the regular season, Holmberg said the team will stick to the same game plan they’ve followed all season.

“At this point in the season, you just hope you can rely on your systems,” he said.

While Holmberg understands the unpredictable nature of playoff hockey all too well, he noted one thing will be certain on Friday night.

“We can certainly expect Nipissing to throw the kitchen sink at us,” Holmberg said, alluding to what he’ll need his team to do in response. “We just have to get off to a good quick start and establish our game.”

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