Friday, February 22, 2008

Campus Corner: Live blog of women's hockey playoffs against Laurier

Access to a press lounge with internet access offers me a rare opportunity to try a live blog, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Tonight's game comes to you from the exotic locale of the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee, ON: I was able to arrange a ride out here with Queen's Athletics for once, which was an unexpected bonus. It should be a good matchup, as it's a rematch of last year's OUA Final. Perhaps it should be billed as the Battle of the Gold. In one corner, we have the champion: the 23-2-2 top-seeded Laurier Golden Hawks, ranked third in the country and looking to defend their OUA championship banner. In the other corner, we have the challenger: the 12-9-6 Golden Gaels, fresh off beating the York Lions last week and looking to keep moving forward in the playoffs and improve on last year's silver medals. It's the first game of a best-of-three OUA semi-final, which is a new format for the league: they featured a Final Four tournament last year. Updates will come as the game progresses.

Update, 8:08 p.m.: Laurier forward Ashley McMillin takes a hooking penalty at 9:02 of the first period. The Gaels' power play creates some good chances, but can't score.

Update, 8:10 p.m.: Queen's defender Katie Duncan takes a hooking penalty at 12:10. Some good penalty killing from the Gaels, but Laurier gets one great chance from the slot and Melissa John has to make a great behind-the-back glove save to keep the score at 0-0. Queen's kills off the rest of the penalty without incident.

Update, 8:12 p.m.: John makes another great glove save to rob the Hawks' rookie forward Heather Fortuna, who fired a wrister from the slot about fifteen feet out. She follows this up with another nice save off the ensuing faceoff. Laurier's Lauren Barch, the Hawks' goal-scoring leader, fans on a shot in the slot and is then knocked down for her pains: no penalty called.

Update, 8:15 p.m.: Forward Andrea LeBlanc bangs home a rebound from the slot at 16:51 of the first to put the Gaels up 1-0. The puck was lying loose in the goalmouth after a flurry of Queen's chances, and no one could find it until LeBlanc fired it in. Assists go to Amanda Morra and Duncan. Definitely against the run of play: Laurier's outshot Queen's 13-3 so far. John has to make another nice save off a goalmouth scramble soon after to preserve the lead.

Update, 8:18 p.m.: Queen's forward Liz Kench takes a slashing penalty at 18:57. Laurier generates some good chances but can't get a shot through: one point blast is blocked by Gaels' defender Alison Bagg, while another goes wide off the skate of the Hawks' defender Lauren Meschino (3rd in the OUA in assists). Queen's kills off the first period portion of the penalty, but they'll still have just under a minute to kill off in the second.

Update: 8:35 p.m.: Just got the first-period shot totals. 15 shots by the Hawks, four for the Gaels. Laurier dominated the period, but John kept them off the scoreboard and Queen's capitalized on one of the few real chances they had.

Update: 8:39 p.m. LeBlanc gets a partial shorthanded breakaway, stealing the puck near Laurier's blue line and walking in, but she can't beat Laurier goaltender Liz Knox. Knox is one of the best goalies in the country statistically by the way: she's second in Canada and first in Ontario with an astonishing 0.98 GAA, and occupies the same places in the save percentage rankings with a .944 mark. Queen's kills off the rest of the penalty.

Update: 8:43 p.m. Laurier jams the puck in on a goalmouth scramble, but it's waved off by the ref. Meschino then takes a penalty for roughing after the whistle at 2:56, so the Gaels go on the power play.

Update: 8:45 p.m. Laurier does a nice job of killing off the penalty, penning the Gaels in their own end for most of the two minutes. Kelsey Thomson gets Queen's one real scoring chance, walking in on net on a 1 on 1 rush, but she has to deal with a tough angle and is thwarted by Knox. The Hawks get another good scoring chance just at the end of the penalty, but John makes a nice save.

Update: 8:47 p.m. Queen's gets another good chance on a two-on-one, but the puck bounces over LeBlanc's stick in the slot. Forward Becky Conroy then takes a holding penalty in her own zone at 5:22, putting the Hawks on the power play.

Update: 8:48 p.m.: Laurier capitalizes soon after, as Barch wins an offensive zone faceoff, Stephanie Crarey fires a shot from the point and forward Andrea Ironside bangs in the rebound at 6:03. There was a sense that this one was coming.

Update: 8:50 p.m.: More penalty trouble for the Gaels: defender Shannon Smyth takes a holding the stick penalty at 7:19. Queen's does a nice job of killing this one off, though.

Update: 8:54 p.m.: Laurier's keeping the Gaels pinned in their own zone most of the time, aided by some defensive turnovers. The Hawks capitalize at 11:50, when defender Andrea Bevan (the OUA's assists leader) bangs a rebound home to give Laurier a 2-1 lead. Captain Lauren Meschino gets the sole assist.

Update: 8:57 p.m.: Some line-juggling from Gaels' coach Rob Lalonde: he's replaced Amanda Morra on the top line, for the moment at least. Tory Boeckh is now skating with Kench and Victoria Kaufman.

Update: 8:59 p.m.: Queen's gets a good chance off a juicy rebound, but Laurier defender Alison Williams interferes with the Gael forwards driving the net and is called for it. Time of the penalty: 14:02.

Update: 9:00 p.m.: Better pressure from Queen's on this power play. A Kench wrister deflects just wide off the stick of a Laurier defender, and Knox makes a nice kick save off a point slapshot from Queen's defender Alison Bagg (sister of football wide receiver Rob). The Hawks kill off the penalty without further incident, though.

Update: 9:02 p.m.: A potential 2 on 1 for Laurier is averted when the breakout pass goes astray in the neutral zone.

Update: 9:03 p.m.: Morra has the best Queen's scoring chance of the period thus far when she's sprung for a breakaway from the Hawks' blue line. She walks in alone on Knox and pulls off a nice move, but Knox robs her with a kick save.

Update: 9:05 p.m.: Some nice late chances for the Gaels, including a point shot from Shelby Aitcheson that Knox deflects into the netting with a pad. Knox seems to be very strong down low: the Gaels might do better shooting high.

Update: 9:06 p.m.: Knox robs both Conroy and Thomson on low shots from the slot. John then makes a terrific pair of saves, stopping a point shot from Kate Psota and the ensuing rebound effort. The period ends with no further scoring. The Gaels are certainly playing better than they were early on and creating more chances: that should be reflected in the shot totals, which I should have in a moment.

Update: 9:10 p.m.: Queen's had eight shots (better than their four in the first period), while Laurier fired 18 on John. The play didn't seem that one-sided, though.

Update: 9:26 p.m.: Conroy takes a hooking penalty at 1:22 of the third, giving the Hawks another power play.

Update: 9:31 p.m.: Laurier increases their lead as forward Katherine Shirrif sets up Di Felice perfectly with a pass, and Di Felice wires a one-time slap shot from the right faceoff circle over John's shoulder at 5:34. Bevan gets the second assist for her second point of the game. The Hawks almost put the game out of reach soon thereafter as Ironside banged away at a loose puck in the crease, but John somehow kept it out and the defence cleared Ironside out of the area.

Update: 9:44 p.m.: Laurier defender Kate Psota takes a high-sticking penalty at 11:55, but the Gaels can't capitalize on the power play.

Update: 9:45 p.m.: Queen's soon gets into penalty trouble of their own. Chantelle Johnson takes an interference penalty at 13:34, and captain Cassie Sparks takes a body-checking penalty 31 seconds later to give the Hawks an extended two-man advantage. Some good goalkeeping from John keeps Laurier from increasing their lead, but the Gaels lose valuable offensive time as a result.

Update: 9:53 p.m.: Queen's calls a timeout with less than a minute left: tough to see a comeback here.

Update: 9:54 p.m.: The Gaels put on some good offensive pressure with John pulled, and create a goalmouth scramble, but can't get the puck by Knox. They do draw two penalties to Laurier's Bevan and McMillin though at 19:39, leading to a brief 6 on 3.

Update: 9:55 p.m.: Queen's can't capitalize, and the game ends 3-1.

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