Thursday, March 05, 2009

Live blog of Queen's-Laurier women's hockey coming up

A quick note that I'll be live-blogging tonight's women's hockey OUA semi-final game between Queen's and Laurier. Laurier's only lost one game all year, so this will be a tough one for Queen's, but they do have home-ice advantage. It's a best of three series; this is the first game. Check in here around 7 p.m. for the live blog.

Update: 7:10 p.m. Technical gremlins have postponed the start of the live blog. Will have it up ASAP. In the meantime, here's a preview story I wrote earlier:

Women’s hockey stays alive
By Andrew Bucholtz
Sports Editor

The women’s hockey team kept its season alive with a 4-2 road victory over the ninth-ranked University of Toronto Varsity Blues in the OUA quarterfinals Tuesday night. Fifth-year forward Amanda Morra notched a hat trick for the Gaels, and forward Becky Conroy scored the game-winning goal and goaltender Melissa John recorded 38 saves.
Head coach Harold Parsons said it was significant to defeat Toronto in the playoffs given the Gaels’ history with the Blues.
“It was a great game,” he said. “It’s been a hell of a battle between us and Toronto over the past couple of years.”
Parsons said the Gaels’ third line of Morra, Jessi Cone and Megan McNutt was the key to their success.
“We felt our third line was the best line on either team,” he said. “Any time you can get three goals and be responsible defensively, that’s a bonus.”
Forward Victoria Kaufmann said the Gaels thought they could handle the highly-ranked Blues given their two victories over Toronto earlier this year.
“We played pretty well against them all year,” she said. “We were really confident going in and it paid off.”
The Gaels got off to a strong start when Morra scored the first goal of the game 11 minutes into the first period. Toronto bounced back with a barrage of shots on John and forward Annie DelGuidice tied the score before the end of the frame. In the second period, the Varsity Blues took the lead with an early goal from Callie Balzak, but Morra recorded her second goal of the game midway through the period to tie the score. Queen’s took control in the final period with an eighth-minute goal from Conroy and Morra iced the victory less than two minutes later with a shorthanded goal.
Kaufmann said it was thrilling to see Morra record a hat trick in one of her final games for the Gaels.
“It was so exciting,” she said. “She’s always been the best penalty killer on our team and a really hard worker, so it was exciting to see that hard work pay off. It couldn’t have happened to a better player.”
The Blues outshot the Gaels 40-25, but Kaufmann said it wasn’t a concern.
“We always get outshot,” she said. “I don’t think there’s been a game all year where we haven’t been outshot.”
Kaufmann said the Gaels can handle it thanks to their strong goaltending.
“We have a lot of confidence in our goaltending,” she said. “Both Melissa and Karissa [Savage] have been great for us all year.”
Kaufmann said strong penalty killing was the key to the Gaels’ victory, especially with Morra’s shorthanded goal late in the game.
“When Amanda got the shorthanded goal, that was definitely a turnaround point,” she said.
Queen’s has struggled in the new year. They went into the Christmas break with a 9-5-1 record, but struggled down the stretch to finish 13-13-1 and only clinched a playoff berth on the final day of the season with a win against the Western Mustangs. Kaufmann said their slump down the stretch was due to poor mental preparation.
“We just didn’t get up for the big games and we took the lesser-ranked teams very lightly,” she said. “Now that it’s the playoffs, we are playing the better teams and so of course we’re up for the games.”
The victory against Toronto gave the Gaels a berth in the best-of-three OUA semi-finals against the second-ranked Laurier Golden Hawks, who finished the season with a stellar 26-1-0 record. It’s the second-straight year that the teams will face off in the semi-finals and the third-straight year that they will battle in the playoffs.
Kaufmann said the Gaels aren’t intimidated by Laurier.
“It will obviously be a great game and hopefully we’re up for the challenge,” she said. “It would be a real honour obviously to knock them off.”
Kaufmann said Laurier’s record may be a blessing in disguise for the Gaels, as it allows them to approach the game without a lot of pressure.
“You’ve got nothing to lose,” she said. “You’re the underdog and nobody’s expecting you to win, so there’s no extra pressure. You just go out there and give it everything you’ve got.”
The Gaels kick off their three-game series against Laurier tonight at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Centre.

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