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Women's Hockey

Women's hockey faces Western in season opener
WATERLOO, Ont. (October 7, 2011) - The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women's hockey team will open their season Saturday afternoon when they travel to London to face the Western Mustangs.

Laurier will be in new territory entering this season 2011-12 season as for the first time in seven years, the Golden Hawks are not the defending OUA Champions after falling to the Queen's Gaels in the OUA Semifinals one year ago. As well, there will be a new face between the pipes for Laurier as five-year standout Lix Knox of Stoufville, Ont., has completed her time in the OUA and has moved on to the Canadian Women's National program. 

Despite the differences entering the year, this team remains a heavy favourite to capture the OUA Championship as they return a number of talented players. Headlining this list are forwards Katherine Shirriff of Carrying Place, Ont., and reigning OUA Rookie of the Year Laura Brooker of Fergus, Ont. These two players finished third and fourth respectively in the OUA in scoring last season with Shirriff posting an OUA-best 25 assists (32 points) while Brooker was second in the conference in goals with 19 (27 points).

Shirriff and Brooker are complimented by a deep and talented group of forwards including captain Abby Rainsberry of Petrolia, Ont., Vanessa Schabkar of Etobicoke, Ont., Caitlin Muirhead of Waterloo, Ont., and Devon Skeats of Whitby, Ont.

On the blueline, OUA First Team All-Stars Fiona Lester of Peterborough, Ont., and Alicia Martin of Etobicoke, Ont., are back to once again anchor a group of defenceman that are among the best in the country. Alannah Wakefield of Pickering, Ont., and Blair Connelly of Amherstburg, Ont., will also play key roles in providing offensive support to the talented Hawk forwards. 

In between the pipes, Kristen Kilgallen of Guelph, Ont., appears to be the favourite to take over the starting goaltending duties from Knox. Last season, in five games she posted a 4-1-0 record with a 1.58 GAA and a 0.933 SV%. She will be pushed for playing time by rookie Erika Thunder of Buffalo Point, Man.

The team also has a new pair of assistant coaches joining head coach RICK OSBORNE, who re-signed for two more years in the summer which will keep him at Laurier through to the 2013-14 campaign. Joining Osborne on the bench this year are former Hawks Andrea Bevan and Lindsay Arbeau. Bevan was a three-time All-Canadian defenceman during her time at Laurier and both players helped the Hawks capture the CIS Championship back in 2004-05. They will be looking to draw on their experience from their time at Laurier in helping this year's team.

According to Osborne, he believes that this team has what it takes to once again make a run for the OUA Championship. "I believe we have an experienced group of players who will challenge once again for the OUA championship," said Osborne.  "With 11 teams now competing and a new playoff format that allows eight teams into the post-season, this could be the most competitive and exciting regular season we have seen in a while."

Puck drop between Laurier and Western is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Thompson Arena in London. The Hawks will play their home opener on October 29 when they host the UOIT Ridgebacks.

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