WATERLOO, Ont. (February 19, 2015) - The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and the No. 6 Queen’s Gaels will renew the best rivalry in OUA women’s hockey on Thursday night when the two teams square off in Game 1 of their best-of-three quarter-final series at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.
Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. and the game will be webcast live on OUA.tv.
The series marks the fourth time in the last seven years that Laurier and Queen’s have faced each other in a best-of-three playoff series with the most recent matchup coming last year when they met for the OUA Championship. The Hawks and Gaels went the limit in that showdown with Laurier coming on top to capture their ninth conference banner in the last 11 years.
In total, these two programs have combined to win the last 11 OUA Championships but this year’s meeting will be the earliest these two teams have met over the past seven years. Along with last year’s gold medal matchup, the previous two playoff series have come in the conference semifinals with Laurier and Queen’s splitting those series one apiece.
The reason for the earlier meeting between the Hawks and Gaels rests at the hands of the purple and gold. The 2014-15 campaign was up and down for head coach RICK OSBORNE’s as they struggled to find consistency throughout the year. Laurier posted a 13-7-4 record, good enough for sixth place in the highly competitive conference while the Gaels managed a 16-5-3 mark and finished third overall. Despite the inconsistency, the Hawks finished just five points behind Queen’s and the series is shaping up to be just an entertaining as their previous three playoff matchups have been.
Laurier and Queen’s enter the postseason as the two highest scoring teams in the OUA as each squad found the back of the net 73 times, an average of over three goals per game per team. Their first meeting of the regular season reflected each team’s ability to score as the Gaels edged the Hawks 5-4 in overtime in Waterloo back in November. Late in the season, Laurier travelled to Kingston where the Gaels earned a 3-1 win on home ice.
Laurier’s offence has flowed through three players this year as veterans Jessie Hurrell of Palgrave, Ont., Laura Brooker of Fergus, Ont., and Tammy Freiburger of Wingham, Ont., have been the offensive sparkplugs for the team.
Hurrell enters the playoffs after the best season of her career. The fourth year forward set new career highs for goals (11), assists (13) and points (24) as she finished fifth in league scoring. She was also Laurier’s top producer against Queen’s in their two meetings scoring twice and adding an assist.
Both Brooker and Freiburger are gearing up for their final playoff runs with Laurier and will be looked upon for veteran leadership. The two fifth year forwards posted identical numbers this season with 11 goals and 10 assists and both players are two of seven Golden Hawks to ever record 100 points in their careers. Brooker will also bring her recent international experience to the team during this year’s playoff run as she recently returned from Spain where she captained Team Canada to a silver medal at the 2015 Winter Universiade.
As for Queen’s, their top offensive threat is fifth year forward Shawna Griffin of Redwood Meadows, Alta., who finished third in league scoring with 26 points. Two other Gaels also eclipsed 20 points this season as Taryn Pilon of Peterborough, Ont., had 25 while Addi Halladay of North Augusta, Ont., had 23.
With both teams having so many offensive weapons, the goaltenders are sure to see plenty of action between the pipes. Second year netminder Amanda Smith of Burlington, Ont., is expected to start Game 1 for Laurier while Caitlyn Lahonen of Sharon, Ont., should start for Queen’s. Both players posted nearly identical numbers during the regular season with Smith holding a 1.99 goals against average and a 0.927 save percentage and Lahonen sitting with a 1.74 GAA and a 0.929 save percentage.
One other storyline to follow is former Laurier captain Fiona Lester of Peterborough, Ont., going up against her former teammates as she plays out her fifth and final year of eligibility. Lester won two OUA titles with the purple and gold and she will be a player that Laurier focuses on shutting down in this series.
Games 2 and 3, if necessary, are schedule to be played Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon in Kingston. Both games will also be webcast live on OUA.tv.