The snowstorm in Oshawa Thursday night didn’t stop the women of the Queen’s Gaels as they defeated the UOIT Ridgebacks 5-2 at the Campus Ice Centre.
From the first puck drop both teams fought aggressively to keep control. UOIT found some positives despite losing to the Gaels, who hold down second place in the Ontario Universities Athletics women’s hockey standings.
“The team was relentless and I’m really happy, not with the outcome, but this team didn’t give up. They didn’t roll over, they kept battling,” said UOIT head coach Karen Nystrom following the game.
Though UOIT doubled Queen’s shots-on-goal (12-6) in the first period, the Gaels managed to start off the scoring early against Ridgeback’s goalie Cassie Charette with a goal by Chelsey Verbeek, followed by another goal just under four minutes later during a power play by Addi Halladay. The period ended with a third goal by Queen’s Michele Knecht.
UOIT came back in the second period with Tori Campbell in net, determined to break the goal deficit. The Ridgebacks fought hard to keep the puck out of their zone, but Queen’s scored two goals in two minutes, both by Shawna Griffin during two separate power plays.
Fighting hard, 47 seconds later UOIT’s captain, Melissa Berney, scored the team’s first goal of the night, assisted by Nicole LoPresti. It was Berney’s first of the season. Fans breathed a sigh of relief as UOIT got on the board and were back in the game.
Morale picked up in the third, and the Ridgebacks banged their sticks against the boards to encourage their teammates on the ice. Both, Queen’s —eager to keep its lead, and UOIT eager to break it — were focused on dominating.
It was only with just over a minute left in the third that UOIT’s Chelsea Ball, assisted by Mikaeli Cavell, scored the team’s second goal during a power play, the only goal of the period.
It was the Ridgebacks second straight loss after breaking a nine-game losing streak last weekend.
Nystrom says many people see this season as a rebuilding year for the team, but she sees it as something else.
“We lost five quality players last year. Those quality players, grads, contributed greatly from an offensive standpoint and from a defensive standpoint. So, when you lose those players, I’m not calling it a rebuilding year, I think that this year is a transition year,” Nystrom said.
UOIT is 11th in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings and no longer vying for a playoff spot. With four games left in the season Nystrom says the next couple of games will be a challenge, but she hopes to finish the season on a strong note.
The team has some time off to refocus before they battle the Waterloo Warriors at home on Saturday, Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m. at the Campus Ice Centre.