It was a tale of two performances for women’s hockey this weekend.
The Gaels played inspired hockey in a 3-1 home victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks on Saturday, but failed to score a goal in a 2-0 loss to the Waterloo Warriors the following day.
The loss to Waterloo (11-8-4) meant the Gaels (15-4-3) finished the weekend in fourth place in the OUA standings, despite briefly retaining possession of second place after beating Laurier (12-7-4).
With two games left in their regular season, Queen’s is two points behind the second-place Guelph Gryphons (16-3-3) and the Toronto Varsity Blues (16-4-3), who sit third. The Gaels have a game in hand over Toronto.
Before topping Laurier, the Gaels showed their appreciation for four departing veterans in a pre-game ceremony.
The tribute to graduating centres Shawna Griffin, Fiona Lester and Chelsey Verbeek and defenceman Mary Coughlin may have inspired the Gaels. They outlasted the Golden Hawks in what head coach Matt Holmberg called an impressive defensive game.
The Gaels’ goals came from winger Taryn Pilon — who scored twice — and Griffin, who added an empty-netter in the game’s closing seconds to clinch the win.
With the seniors’ departure looming, Holmberg said the team will miss them in several ways.
“There’s the positional impact, losing one defenceman and three centremen, which is a big factor,” he said. “But it’s the experience — in two fifth-years and two fourth-years who have all won OUA championships — that you just can’t replace.”
Luckily, Holmberg doesn’t have to worry about losing them just yet. With a game the following night against Waterloo (11-8-4), the Gaels had to shift their focus quickly — away from the celebrations of victory and outward-bound stars and onto the next challenge at hand.
But even with the veterans still in the lineup, the Gaels were shut out 2-0 by Waterloo Sunday afternoon.
They produced several chances, but the Gaels couldn’t beat Warriors goaltender Stephanie Sluys, who picked up her OUA-leading seventh shutout of the season.
After the shutout loss, Holmberg said the Gaels had felt confident coming off Saturday’s win that they could beat the Waterloo netminder.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t successful and we lost a chance at two points tonight,” he said.
The Gaels have a couple of tough road games ahead, visiting the first-place Western Mustangs (17-1-3) on Friday night and the fifth-place Windsor Lancers (13-5-4) on Saturday to close out the season.
If Queen’s and Windsor continue to hold the same spots in the standings, they’ll meet in the first round of the OUA playoffs.
While it doesn’t get any easier from here, Holmberg said his team is certainly eager for the challenge.
“They’re two good teams to be facing right before the playoffs.” he said. “We’re looking forward to these big games to get us ready.”
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