In their strongest weekend of the 2018-19 season, the women’s hockey team (11-7-0-0) defeated the nationally-ranked sixth Western Mustangs (11-3-0-4) 5-2 and the Windsor Lancers (0-14-2-2) 2-1.
The Gaels overpowered the Mustangs in the first two periods. Near the end of the second, Queen’s led 4-0 before giving up a late-period goal. The Gaels were rarely threatened by the visiting team, holding on for a 5-2 win.
Head Coach Matt Holmberg felt the game was a great showcase of his team’s ability to compete with the other top teams in the conference. It was the team’s second meeting since Queen’s lost to Western in the OUA Finals last year and the Gaels again lost to the Mustangs 4-1 earlier this season.
“[It’s a challenge] to take that next step, to beat the other top teams and prove that we belong in that conversation. I thought we rose to that challenge and played arguably one of the best games that we’ve played all year,” Holmberg said.
Coming off their impressive win against Western, the Gaels had a tougher outing against the lower-ranked Lancers. After first-period goals by second-year Alex Maw and third-year Bryce Desa, Queen’s couldn’t get comfortably ahead of Windsor, who scored a goal of their own in the opening frame.
“I don’ think we were as sharp as we were [against Western],” Holmberg told The Journal. “[Windsor] is a hardworking team. They’re on the puck hard, and it seemed to create some problems for us.”
— Queen’s Gaels (@queensgaels) January 20, 2019
The Lancer’s currently sit last in the OUA, and the Gaels aren’t slated to play them again this season.
With a successful weekend under their belt, Homberg reflected on how the winter break has affected his team’s mindset.
“It’s almost like starting the season again,” he said. “We had so many injuries in the first half of the season that our game against Guelph to start the second half was the first time we had a full lineup.”
“Just having bodies back […] it’s made a big difference to our depth, and I think we’re only just starting to see our lineups jelling with chemistry.”
With the win over the Lancers, Queen’s moves to fifth in the OUA with a record of 11-7. The top four teams ahead of them are Nipissing (7-5-5-2), Ryerson (10-5-2-1), Western (11-3-0-4), and Guelph (12-2-1-2).
As the season winds down, Holmberg assessed where he’d like to see the Gaels come playoff time in February.
“Bigger picture, I want us to be playing the best hockey we can be. The league is so close that we can still play great hockey and finish sixth overall,” he said. “I’m confident that if we do play our best over the next six games, a top-four finish is within our reach.”
Looking forward, the Gaels have an important month ahead of them. With games against teams such as Brock (6-4-4-2), Waterloo (9-5-1-2), and most notably Guelph—which takes place this weekend—Queen’s will have to fight hard to edge into a spot in the top four. This weekend the team is set to play York on Saturday in Toronto before travelling to Guelph Sunday afternoon.
Holmberg said his team’s set out a rough plan for the Gryphons, which will likely be similar to its previous strategy, which resulted in a 1-0 loss just over two weeks ago.
“We just have to make sure that we’re skating well with them, we’re keeping them to the outside, and we’re finding ways to get more traffic and bodies in front of their goaltender,” he said.
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