Critical loss puts Gaels in playoff peril

Queen’s falls to the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks 2-1 on Bell Let’s Talk night

Nicole Posesorski pushes the puck up the ice.
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The Gaels dropped a game to the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks that they wish they could have back.

The Ridgebacks (2-13) are second-last in the OUA Women’s Hockey standings and historically, the Gaels’ record against the Ridgebacks is 20-7. This game marks the first time in Queen’s women’s hockey history that the Gaels have lost two straight to the Ridgebacks.

Considering Queen’s middling 10-7-1 record coming into the contest and with the playoffs on the horizon, this was a must-win.

Right out of the gates, Queen’s had control in the opponent’s end. Fluid puck movement and high energy got them some good-looking shots early. It was a physical, antsy first period that was ultimately scoreless. The story on both sides was great defence and big saves.

At the start of the second period, the Ridgebacks held a team huddle at centre ice, and their focus before the action started seemed to carry into it— they quickly got possession and fired two big shots, both of which were saved by Queen’s goalie Makenzy Arsenault.

Queen’s Devon Greenough and Nicole Posesorski were playing some great physical defense, knocking players against the glass left and right, and generally limiting Ontario Tech’s momentum.

Then, on a Queen’s powerplay, defenceman Bryce Desa wrangled a rebound and hammered home the Gaels’ first and only goal of the night.

The lead was short-lived—three minutes later, the Ridgebacks’ Brooklyn Duff managed a goal with some quick puck movement and aggression right tight to the Queen’s net.

A few minutes before the end of the period, Greenough crosschecked a Ridgeback player, knocking her against the boards. The Gaels went into the locker room looking frustrated.

Queen’s got off 22 shots by the end of the second, and by the end of the game they had nearly twice as many shots on net, firing 39 to the Ridgebacks’ 20.

The third period started off at a torrid pace. A few minutes in, the Ridgebacks’ Nicole Escano secured the goal that ultimately won them the game—even though the third period was, by and large, under the Gaels’ control. 

With about three minutes left in the game, there were two scuffles at the visitors’ end of the ice, with one resulting in the Ridgebacks’ goalie getting knocked over in the short blast of commotion.

With a minute to go and Queen’s goalie on the bench, the energy became frantic, but the Gaels failed to tie up the game, and it ended 2-1 in Ontario Tech’s favour.

In an interview with The Journal after the game, Head Coach Matt Holmberg noted, “There were a lot of positives in that game.” The Gaels did have more shots, handled their penalty kill well, and scored a powerplay goal.

“[The team is] running at a runway. We’ve only got five games to go, and we’re battling for a playoff spot […] We’re going to try and win all five.”

It’s a matter of when, or if, the Gaels take off.

Currently, the Gaels are one point shy of the eighth and final playoff spot that’s held by Western. They’re also only four points behind fifth-place Guelph.

However, the four teams ahead of Queen’s all have a game in hand, so it will take a sprint to the finish for Queen’s to make the playoffs.

For their next game, the women will head to Kitchener on Jan. 31 to face the third-place Waterloo Warriors (10-7).

 

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