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Amanda Smith and her defence will need to be at the top of their game against the top-seeded Mustangs (Photo Credit: Kha Vo)
Amanda Smith and her defence will need to be at the top of their game against the top-seeded Mustangs (Photo Credit: Kha Vo)
PREVIEW: WHKY faces Western in OUA Semifinals

WATERLOO, Ont. (February 25, 2015) - After knocking off the No. 6 Queen’s Gaels in the OUA Quarter-finals, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey team will look to eliminate another nationally-ranked team from the playoffs this week as they take on the No. 3 Western Mustangs in the best-of-three OUA Semifinals beginning Wednesday night in London.

Puck drop for Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. at Thompson Arena and the game can be seen live on OUA.tv.

The sixth-seeded Golden Hawks are riding high heading into this series after they knocked off rival Queen’s in a rematch of last year’s OUA Championship in the opening round. Laurier swept the matchup with a 1-0 triple overtime win in Game 1 on home ice before winning Game 2 3-2 in Kingston thanks to a pair of goals in the final three minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, the Mustangs come into the semifinals after they swept their first round series against the eighth-seeded Nipissing Lakers. Western won Game 1 up in North Bay when they skated away with a 3-1 thanks to a pair of third period tallies, including an empty net goal. In Game 2, the Lakers gave the Mustangs all they could handle by scoring two third period goals of their own but failed to overcome a 2-0 lead as Western came away with a 3-2 win.

These two teams squared off twice during the regular season but there may still be a feeling out process in the opening game of the series as the Hawks and Mustangs last played on November 1. Two of the Hawks first five games this season came against Western as they earned a 2-1 shootout win on the road in their first meeting of the year while Western skated away with a 3-2 win in Waterloo three weeks later.

Although it was been a few months since they played, the playoff rivalry between the two squads is very fresh. This series will mark the third time in the last four years that Laurier and Western have met in the playoffs. Their first meeting came during the 2011-12 playoffs when the two squads met for the OUA Championship. The Mustangs were heavy underdogs in that series and the scorelines reflected that as the purple and gold won the championship in a two-game sweep, picking up 4-1 and 5-1 victories.

The next year, however, it was Western exacting a measure of revenge as they rode the goaltending of Kelly Campbell of St. Thomas, Ont., to win a series that went the distance. The Hawks and Mustangs traded 2-0 wins through the first two games before Campbell posted her second shutout of the series as Western won Game 3 1-0.

Campbell, and her Laurier counterpart Amanda Smith of Burlington, Ont., will both play key roles in this upcoming series as they were two of the top goaltenders through the opening round of the playoffs.

Smith posted the best numbers of any netminder in the quarter-finals as she stopped 76 of 78 shots she faced in nearly 155 minutes of action. Her 0.78 goals against average and 0.974 save percentage are the best of any remaining goaltender in the OUA and she will need to be at her best once again in this series.

Campbell, meanwhile, sits fourth in the conference in goals against average and save percentage at 1.50 and 0.940 respectively.

From an offensive perspective, it may be each other’s bluelines that Laurier head coach RICK OSBORNE and Western head coach Chris Higgins have to watch out for. Two of the Hawks’ four goals in the opening round came from defencemen Erika Kiviaho of Whitefish, Ont., and Haley Baxter of Waterloo, Ont., while Western’s Katelyn Gosling of London, Ont., is tied for the league scoring lead with three assists.

The winner of this series will advance to the OUA Championship next week and will gain an automatic berth into the CIS Championship being hosted by the Calgary Dinos. 

Laurier fans will have a chance to cheer on their team Friday night when the Hawks host Game 2 of the series at the Waterloo Recreation Complex. Puck drop for that night is set for 7:30 p.m. If a Game 3 is necessary in the series, it will be back in London at Thompson Arena on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. Both games will also be available live on OUA.tv.

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