By Ron Guillet
The Laurentian Voyageurs women’s hockey team played back-to-back home games this past weekend against the Windsor Lancers and Western Mustangs.
The Voyageurs entered the weekend with a 6-9 record and looking to gain ground on the eighth and final playoff spot, held by the Waterloo Warriors.
The Lancers travelled to the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex on Saturday, Jan. 11, looking to extend their three-point lead over the Voyageurs and solidify their playoff spot.
Windsor started the game with strong puck possession and forced Laurentian goaltender Laura Deller, who faced four breakaways in the first period, to make a number of quality saves. But it was Laurentian who struck first as Laurentian leading scorer Samantha Morell picked up a rebound in the slot and buried it past Windsor goaltender Marissa Kozovski.
Windsor controlled possession throughout the period with 17 shot attempts (shots on goal, opponent blocked shots, and missed shots at even-strength) to Laurentian’s seven, and it eventually rewarded them as Bree Polci slotted a backhander through Deller’s five-hole on a breakaway to tie the game.
The second period was more evenly-matched as the Voyageurs cut down the Lancers’ attempts but still struggled to direct shots on goal. It eventually culminated in forward Jenny MacKnight lifting the puck over Deller’s glove to give Windsor a 2-1 lead entering the third period.
The game then shifted to a barnburner as emotions ran high and goals were aplenty. Deller made a rare mistake as she came out of the crease to play the puck and passed it right on the blade of MacKnight’s stick, who slotted the puck into the empty net. Amanda Pereira responded with a goal for Laurentian not a minute later, but Polci scored her second of the game moments after that as she buried one on a two-on-one break.
The game ended 5-2 for Windsor, who led 47-25 in shot attempts.
“We had moments of sustained pressure,” Laurentian head coach Stacey Colarossi said. “With a young team comes high and lows in emotion and I think the girls let emotion get the better of them and they didn’t concentrate on the task at hand.”
Colarossi said Deller, who faced 33 shots in the game and has a remarkable .929 save percentage on the season, was the Voyageurs’ best player despite a few mishaps.
“She stole the show today,” Colarossi said of Deller. “She was her own highlight reel tonight. They’re really fast through the neutral zone and they had a lot of odd-man rushes and she held us in there. She let a few softer goals go in, the ones that she typically saves, but then she made some that she had no business making.”
Colarossi said the message to the team was to focus on skating and using their speed to prepare against the Mustangs.
“They’re not quite as fast (as Windsor),” Colarossi said. “They’re big and they’re physical. We just need to focus on our tactics and our team play and we should be okay there. They are a higher ranked team, but it’s a very different style of game so, if we skate like we can, we’ll be okay.”
The Voyageurs scored the opening goal against the Mustangs just 3:17 into the game as forward Lauren Langille swatted the puck out of mid-air and under the blocker of goaltender Kelly Campbell. Morell scored her ninth of the season to put the Voyageurs up 2-0 in the first period, but the Mustangs were relentless throwing pucks on net, outshooting Laurentian 19-1 in the second period, and tied the game heading into the final frame.
The teams exchanged goals in the third period before Deller, who made 39 saves, stopped a penalty shot late in the game to preserve her team’s 4-3 lead. It was a precarious one, though, as Western tied it up on a scramble in front of the net with 17 seconds remaining.
The game went to a shootout and Western capitalized on all three shots, taking the game 5-4.
Laurentian remains three points behind Waterloo for the eighth and final playoff spot and have seven games remaining to close the gap.
Their final homestand of the regular season starts on Saturday, Jan. 25, at 3:45 p.m. against the York Lions. On Sunday, Jan. 26, they take on the UOIT Ridgebacks at 2:45 p.m.