Coming off their first win of 2016 against the Brock Badgers last weekend in St. Catharines, the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team sought to keep the wins coming as they faced off against the Western Mustangs and Windsor Lancers at Varsity Arena on Friday and Saturday nights.
Despite having a shaky start to the second half of their season, the Blues are now ranked fifth in the OUA and they look like they are finally finding their stride as they put away a 2-1 win over the number five Mustangs and 3-2 overtime win over the Lancers.
During Friday night’s game, the Blues wasted no time in opening scoring as second year forward Meagan O’Brien found the back of the net only 2:52 into the first period, tipping a soaring point shot from rookie Cristine Chao. The Mustangs answered the call with a goal some five minutes later as Amanda Pereria was able to sneak one by rookie goaltender Valencia Yordanov. Even with two penalties, which sent Blues forwards Taylor Day and Jessica Robichand to the sin bin, Toronto was able to outshoot Western 13-7 in the first frame and limit the bleeding to a single goal.
The Mustangs had a strong start in the second, by keeping most of the pressure in the Blues end for the first half of the period, despite a Blues power play. Toronto was given an energy boost at the halfway mark of the period with two back-to-back breakaway chances from veteran forwards captain Kristi Riseley and Taylor Day. Western’s domination in the second was taking its toll on the Blues until O’Brien proved she had more in the tank. With less than two minutes remaining in the period, O’Brien sank her second goal — which would turn out to be the game-winner — on a rebound from a solid shot from defenseman Cristine Chao.
Carrying the momentum from O’Brien’s goal into the third, the Blues fought hard to hold on to their narrow one-goal lead by controlling the puck for the majority of the period.
A late penalty call on Toronto with only four minutes left tested the Blues’ penalty kill, but the women answered the call, running down the two minutes with ease, despite an extra Western attacker in the dying seconds of the game due to a pulled goalie.
The 2-1 victory marks an emergence of the younger Blues’ playing a larger role in the team’s success, with all points of the night coming from first-or-second-year players. When asked about her pair of goals, O’Brien was quick to pass credit along to her teammate, by saying, “Chao had two great shots, I was in a good spot to be able to put them away.”
Fresh off the narrow victory, the Blues had little time to rest as the next evening the women faced off against the Windsor Lancers in their ninth annual Think Pink #BLEEDBLUE game at Varsity Arena. As part of the campaign, the players have raised a whopping $1,600, the most in the CIS for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
The Blues’ brought it down to the wire in a close 3-2 win over the Lancers that had to be decided in overtime.
The Lancers came out flying in the first period with a quick goal by Shawna Lesperance only 2:42 in, that came as result of a Blues’ turnover in the Toronto zone. Toronto was only able to put a handful of shots on goal as Windsor controlled the period. The Lancers were able to put one more away before the first frame ended with the help of April Loojie’s hooking penalty that gave them a two-minute powerplay.
The flat-footed Blues were revived by a powerplay goal 3:47 into the second period, as Kristi Riseley was able to get her stick on a rocket shot from defenseman Rebecca Bourgeois and tip it over the shoulder of Lancers netminder Ingrid Sandven. The goal appeared to send the Blues into another gear, carrying momentum through the period by dominating the frame.
The pressure paid off, as second-year Meagan O’Brien, who had scored the Blues only two goals the night prior, was able to put one away with the help of a textbook pass from fellow second-year forward Lauren Straatman. The goal marked O’Brien’s fourth in the last four games.
Entering the third period tied at two, both teams appeared eager to win in regulation. Toronto’s penalty kill was tested with two separate penalties, that would send fifth-year’s Jacqueline Scheffel and April Loojie to the box. The Blues ran down both penalties but were unable to find the back of the net before the period came to a close. The game would have to be decided in extra time.
The four-on-four overtime proved just what the Blues needed to finish off the Lancers. After controlling the puck for all of the 1:37 that elapsed in extra time, veteran forward Sonja Weidenfelder brought the win home for the Blues with a one-timer off a pass from fourth-year favourite Taylor Day. In tandem with the Blues victory over the Lancers on Friday, the win improves the women’s record to 8-3-4-3.
As the women’s team looks towards their final six games of the regular season, team captain Kristi Riseley believes the Blues are gaining the momentum they need to be successful in approaching the playoffs. “We just need to keep working hard and playing like we know we can but not underestimating any team, regardless of their standing,” says Riseley. “If we do that, we will have the positive mindset we need to be successful.”
The women return to the ice on February 4, when they take on GTA rivals Ryerson at Varsity Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 11:00 AM.