Women's hockey miss out on gold at OUA Championship

Queen’s lose to Western 3-0 at home

The Gaels won an OUA silver last Saturday.
The Gaels won an OUA silver last Saturday.

With the women’s hockey team playing in the OUA Championship game for the first time since 2014, Queen’s fans filled the Kingston Memorial Centre on Saturday afternoon in anticipation of the team’s pursuit for gold. Unfortunately, the home fans left the arena disappointed after a 3-0 home loss to the Western Mustangs in the McCaw Cup Finals.

“Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted,” Gaels captain Jessica Wakefield said after the game, “but I’m so proud of the team for battling through to the last second.” 

Prior to the championship game, Queen’s celebrated personal accolades for a few members of the team. On March 7th, forward Katrina Manourakis won the OUA Player of the Year award, Stephanie Pascal won Goaltender of the Year and head coach Matt Holmberg won Coach of the Year. 

Despite these midweek accolades, the Gaels’ confidence faded early during Saturday’s game. 

With Western’s play from the outset focused on quick, sharp passes and moving the puck aggressively into the Gaels zone, Queen’s was forced to play defence early and committed a cross-checking penalty. Unfortunately for the Gaels, their rivals capitalized on the man-advantage.

Ten minutes into the period, Mustangs defenceman Emma Pearson snuck the puck past Pascal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. The Gaels had two power plays in the opening frame but failed to capitalize on either. Even though they had a less than stellar opening frame, Holmberg said they struggled the most in the second period.

“I think the second period was our undoing,” he said. “We weren’t generating pucks to the net and got a couple needless penalties that ruined the momentum.” 

While the Mustangs maintained their composure, the Gaels failed to muster any sort of momentum in the second period. Although Queen’s did a better job of keeping the puck out of their zone, it didn’t last the whole period. 

With just 22 seconds left in the second frame, Western scored their second goal of the game, giving them a 2-0 lead going into the final period of play. 

“At the end of the second I just reminded the team that we’ve had a couple pretty good comebacks this year … 20 minutes is a lot of hockey and they should remain confident,” Holmberg recalled.

Although the coach said he was happier with how his team played in the game’s final period, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Mustangs’ lead. With less than three minutes left in regulation and still down 2-0, Queen’s pulled Pascal from her net in an attempt to make a comeback. 

“I was hopeful,” Pascal told The Journal, of the team’s potential comeback. “Our team has come back from 2-0 before so I didn’t have any doubts.” 

The Mustangs sealed the game shortly thereafter with an empty-net goal, winning 3-0 and hoisting the McCaw Cup on Queen’s home-ice.  

The Gaels, who finished the regular season atop the conference at 14-3-3, haven’t won an OUA title since the 2012-13 season.

Queen’s season isn’t over yet. As the OUA’s silver medalist, the Gaels qualified for the U Sports National Championship tournament, hosted by Western in London, ON, starting on March 16. 

Albeit disappointed with the result of the championship game, Gaels captain Jessica Wakefield told The Journal her team are ready and optimistic about their opportunity to play this coming weekend.   

“We’re just going to make [nationals] the best week ever. We’re going to enjoy ourselves, play our best and — just like today — anything can happen,” she said. 

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