WATERLOO, Ont. (March 2, 2014) - For the 11th time in their storied history, the No. 4 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women's hockey team are OUA Champions as they defeated the No. 8 Queen's Gaels 2-0 in Game 3 of the best-of-three championship series at the Waterloo Recreation Complex.
The Hawks used goals 45 seconds apart in the second period from Danelle Im
of Toronto, and Emily Kekewich
of Kingston, Ont., to grab a lead that goaltender Amanda Smith
of Burlington, Ont., would not relinquish. The rookie netminder made 38 saves to record her second consecutive shutout of the series to take home Finals MVP honours.
"I'm so proud of these girls right now," said Smith following the victory. "I just wanted to do everything I could for these girls. "They've worked so hard to get here and here we are, and I couldn't think of a better group to celebrate this with."
"It feels amazing," added fifth year forward Devon Skeats
of Whitby, Ont., who was named the player of the game for the Hawks. "We've had such a history with Queen's so it feels extra special. It's been a bit of a roller coaster, but there's no better way to finish my last year, so I'm really happy."
"It feels really, really good," commented head coach Rick Osborne
, reiterating the thoughts of his players. "We've got such quality veteran players on this team and no one knows how hard they work and what we put them through to get to this point in the season. There's nothing that makes my heart warmer than two shutouts to finish off the playoff series. I love those zeroes on the board."
In what was the highest paced contest of the series, both Laurier and Queen's brought their games to a new level on Sunday night. The Gaels got off to a quick start as they got the first eight shots on goal but Smith stood her ground and held off the early pressure.
The Hawks would respond with pressure of their own thanks to a couple of powerplay opportunities later in the period. With Gaels captain Morgan McHaffie of Guelph, Ont., off for tripping, the Hawks had two good chances against Queen's goalie Mel Dodd-Moher of Stittsville, Ont., but the fifth year netminder denied them on both occasions.
Laurier would continue to up the tempo in the second period thanks to the play of Skeats. The fifth year forward nearly opened the scoring just minutes into the middle stanza but Dodd-Moher just directed her shot wide.
Just minutes later however, Skeats would play a key role in getting the scoring started. With the speedy forward driving the net, Im threw the puck on goal and it managed to slide through both Skeats and Dodd-Moher in the crease to give Laurier the 1-0 lead.
With the crowd buzzing, the Hawks came back strong after the goal and just 45 seconds later, Kekewich poked a loose puck past Dodd-Moher to give the purple and gold a two-goal edge.
Needing to settle his team down, Queen's head coach Matt Holmberg called a timeout and tried to re-focus his team. The Gaels would play strong for the rest of the period but could not put a dent in the Hawks lead as they trailed 2-0 after 40 minutes.
In the third, the Hawks went into shutdown mode and rush-after-rush, denied Queen's a clear path to the net. The Gaels would direct 11 shots on Smith but very few that gave the rookie goalie any trouble.
"Her rebound from game two at UOIT has been absolutely phenomenal," said Osborne of his goalie who was pulled in Game 2 of their opening round series against the Ridgebacks. She's come back and she's been so focused and so like a veteran. She had to battle Kesteris and Dodd-Moher, two fifth-year goaltenders that are outstanding athletes and goalies. And if anyone thought there was a big edge for the opposition, it was in that position. And you know what, that position ended up being the MVP of the series."
Late in the game, McHaffie took an undisciplined penalty as she dumped Smith behind the play and from there, the Hawks controlled the final two minutes to claim their second OUA title in the last three years.
The Hawks now advance to the CIS Championship to be hosted by St. Thomas University in Fredricton, N.B., from March 13-16.
"We need to enjoy the moment and feel really good but then I have to get them refocused and frame the next two weeks for them," commented Osborne when asked about preparing for nationals. "We beat a hell of a team down there. They are really tough to play against, they're well coached and I have a lot of respect for that team. And now we have to get ready for the next task at hand, which is getting ready for our first shift at nationals.
Stay tuned to laurierathletics.com for complete championship information.
NOTES: Rookie defenceman Jacky Normandeau
of Uxbridge, Ont., made history with the win as she became the first Laurier athlete to ever win two provincial titles with different teams in the same year...for fifth year graduating players Skeats and Candice Styles
of Orangeville, Ont., the OUA Championship is the third of their careers...Laurier is now a perfect 3-0 in championship games/series against Queen's having defeated the Gaels in single-elimination games in both 2003-04 and 2006-07