Laurier: 2 Toronto - Game 3: 1
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WATERLOO, Ont. (February 23, 2014) - The No. 4 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women's hockey team is returning to the OUA Final thanks to a 2-1 victory over the No. 7 Toronto Varsity Blues on Sunday night at the Waterloo Recreation Complex.
In a wildly entertaining contest, the Hawks rallied from an early deficit with goals in the second and third period to knock off the Varsity Blues in the third and deciding game of the semifinal series. With the win, Laurier returns to the OUA Championship series after being eliminated in the semifinals a year ago.
"It was a fun game to be in tonight," commented head coach RICK OSBORNE
after the victory. "I'm very proud of our vets. They learned a tough lesson last year in game three against Western and that's what we were focused on today. What an opportunity to show what we learned from last year and what an opportunity for new kids to start making some history here at Laurier."
"It's great for our team," added third year forward Jessie Hurrell
of Palgrave, Ont., who assisted on the game-winning goal. "We just wanted to make it to the finals to play Queen's and now we have home ice advantage against Queen's too. We're just looking forward to that now."
After each team won a game in convincing fashion in the opening two contests of the series, Sunday night's game was a battle. Both teams fought for every inch of ice while shots were hard to come by as the Hawks and Blues blocked numerous attempts on goal.
However, one shot did get through to the net early on and that was from Toronto's Sonja Weidenfelder of Toronto. The third year forward was able to convert a one-time opportunity on the powerplay as she got the puck through traffic and into the top of the net, beating a helpless Amanda Smith
of Burlington, Ont., to give the Blues a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Laurier was quick to respond though when they got their first powerplay 11 minutes later. Defenceman Blair Connelly
's (Amherstburg, Ont.) point shot found its way past Blues goalie Nicole Kesteris of Aurora, Ont., to even the score at one. The goal was Connelly's second of the playoffs after going through the regular season without finding the back of the net once.
Late in the period, the Blues would get another powerplay but this time, team captain Laura Brooker
of Fergus, Ont., took it upon herself to make sure nothing got through to the net. In a 20-second sequence to close out the period, the fourth year forward blocked three consecutive shots to ensure the game remained tied after 20 minutes.
"I'm sore, laughed Brooker when asked about her shot-blocking prowess after the game. "I took a few, well, everywhere. I was on the ground being shot at, so I feel a little sore but I'll bounce back."
While the second period was scoreless for both teams, the intensity of the game picked up. Three more powerplays were handed out but the Hawks and Blues could not convert and the game headed to the third period still locked at one.
The Hawks would get the breakthrough they needed early in the final frame. Tammy Freiburger
of Wingham, Ont., tipped Hurrell's shot past Kesteris to give the purple and gold their first lead of the contest.
Following the goal, the Blues upped their offensive zone pressure but the Hawks defence and Smith stood tall and repelled Toronto's final five shots on goal over the final 17 minutes of play to clinch the win and the series.
Laurier now advances to face the No. 8 Queen's Gaels in the best-of-three OUA Championship series. The Gaels upset the No. 3 Guelph Gryphons in the semifinals to advance to the final.
"[It'll be] defence first and crash the net," said Hurrell when asked what the key to the final will be for the Hawks. "[We need to] stay on their good players and shut them down, and let our team play their game."
Stay tuned to laurierathletics.com for complete playoff information as it becomes available.