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Women’s hockey team display resilience in back-to-back home games

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By Ron Guillet

The Laurentian Voyageurs women’s hockey team hit the ice at home this past weekend in games against the Laurier Golden Hawks and Waterloo Warriors.

The Voyageurs played the Golden Hawks first on Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Copper Cliff Arena due to scheduling matters. Laurier had a 6-2 record entering the game, while Laurentian were looking to improve upon their 3-5 start to the campaign. Laurier took the momentum early as they dominated in puck-possession and peppered 17 shots on net to Laurentian’s seven. Laurier defenseman Haley Baxter opened the scoring nearly 10 minutes into the game and punished the Voyageurs for their lack of offensive zone time.

Laurentian seemed to have received the message in the second period as they came out limiting Laurier’s chances and generating more shots in the offensive zone. The Golden Hawks would increase their lead, however, as forward Erika Kiviaho snuck one past goaltender Laura Deller not five minutes into the period. Before the game got out of reach, captain Julie Hebert took it upon herself as she unloaded a shot from the high slot that beat Kayla Brown high glove.

The Golden Hawks took a 3-2 lead entering the third period after an even middle frame between the two clubs. The Voyageurs would come undone, however, as the Golden Hawks erupted offensively with four goals in under a two-minute span. Deller was pulled from the crease after the fifth goal against on 35 shots, but it didn’t provide any sort of spark as goaltender Emily Toffoli surrendered two goals on five shots. Laurier found production from seven different players while Laurentian got both their goals from Hebert in the 7-2 drubbing.

“It’s an unfortunate outcome but they’re the fifth-ranked club in the country and we played with them up to the eight-minute mark in the third period,” Laurentian coach Stacey Colarossi said. “They’re a very fit team and if you look at their roster they’re fourth and fifth year students so they’re at the prime of their careers.”

The Voyageurs looked to rebound against the Warriors on Sunday, Nov. 10, at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex. The game started in a similar fashion to the previous night as Waterloo controlled play and had nine shot attempts (SOG, missed shots and blocked shots) on net at even-strength to Laurentian’s five. Waterloo opened the scoring on the powerplay at 5:41 in the first period as Carolyn Burke beat Deller high blocker from the lower right circle. Laurentian would register their first shot 11 minutes into the game to encapsulate a rather sluggish period.

Laurentian came out stronger in the second, as they directed more shots on net and spent less time in their own end. Waterloo forward Marissa Redmond had an opportunity on a penalty shot not five minutes into the period but Deller turned her aside with a big right pad stop. Despite Laurentian’s early efforts, Waterloo extended their lead as defenseman Stephanie Digness unloaded a slap shot on the powerplay that beat Deller glove side on the team’s 18th shot on net. But the Voyageurs would strike back as forward Mikayla Ferlaino picked up a rebound at the side of the net to cut the lead in half.

For the first time in the game, the Voyageurs outshot the Warriors in the third period and directed 10 shots towards the net at even-strength while Waterloo had seven. It appeared as though Laurentian would not be rewarded for their strong play but it eventually paid off, with six seconds remaining, as defenseman Jessica Staats slotted one home on a scramble in front of the net.

In overtime, Waterloo erupted in celebration as they were convinced they scored the game-winner with 9.5 seconds remaining, but it was determined by the referees that the net had been dislodged before the puck crossed the line.

This led to a dramatic finish as none other than Staats beat goaltender Allie Mitchell high blocker in the shootout, forcing Waterloo forward Rachel Marriott to score in the third round. Deller capped a strong night between the pipes with a blocker save to secure the Voyageurs the two points as they won 3-2.

“It took us a bit to get our feet moving but ultimately we got the outcome we wanted,” Colarossi said. “I think the resiliency we showed, compared to where we were when we played Ryerson a couple weeks ago, is a step (forward) in the process.”

Colarossi said she changed tactics offensively in the second period, which sparked a sudden surge of shots from the Voyageurs and culminated into a dominant third period.

“I changed our tactics a little bit in regards to our positioning in the offensive zone based on how they were breaking out,” Colarossi said. “When the girls bought into that, especially in the third period, we were generating a lot more chances.”

Colarossi is pleased with her team thus far and said they should improve as the players gain confidence and sustain pressure in the offensive end.

“Being a young team, it’s about inconsistencies, but that’s being young and inexperienced,” Colarossi said. “We’re just going to get better as we go. Obviously, we’re spending a little too much time in our defensive zone, so we need to change that and address that. But they’re starting to understand the system in the d-zone, so now it’s just the transition from getting puck-possession and skating with the puck. They’re young, so getting puck confidence is what we talk a lot about and getting into battles instead of giving away pucks for free.”

Laurentian is now 4-6 on the season and sit ninth in the Ontario University Athletic standings. The Voyageurs are back in action on Saturday, Nov. 16, as they play the UOIT Ridgebacks on the road.