Friday afternoon’s tilt between the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team and the Laurentian Voyageurs was an exhibition game — but based on the grittiness of the play, you would never have guessed it. Both teams played ferociously and crashed the net hard, but in the end it was the Voyageurs who pulled ahead to a 3-1 victory over the Blues.

Rookie goaltender Valencia Yordanov was outstanding in the first half of the game — shutting out 12 shots on goal, and effectively frustrating the Laurtentian forwards with her confident play. But the second period belonged to Laurentian, as they controlled the pace of the play, cycled the puck with ease, and finally broke the tie off a five hole shot through second-year goalie Katey Teekasingh with five minutes remaining. Veteran Blues forward Alessandra Bianchi almost tucked home a rebound in the dying minutes, but the Blues would enter third period down a goal.

Unsurprisingly, the aggressive play carried over from the first two periods. A collision in front of the net drove Blues captain Kristi Riseley head first into the post, a scary play that thankfully did not result in an injury. The team, clearly shaken by their captain’s close call, gave up a goal on the very next shift, as an excellent breakout pass by the Laurentian defense set up forward Elissa Bertuzzi for a slick backhand goal. The Blues were given a power play opportunity soon afterwards — after a reckless knee-on-knee collision — but had difficulty maintaining offensive zone possession.

Late in the third the Blues played their best hockey of the game, aggressively trying to force a mistake from the overwhelmed Voyageur’s defence. This style of play appeared to suit rookies Cara Clarke and Kiyono Cox, who made a statement with tremendous fore-checking and possession, nearly resulting in a goal. They played with fifth-year Jacqueline Scheffel, who acted as a stabilizing presence on the line while laying a few huge hits herself. Riseley, who didn’t miss a shift, continued to crash the net hard and agitated the Laurentian defenders with her uncompromising play. However, Laurentian pulled away with a deflating rebound goal from Samantha Morell with seven minutes remaining to make the score 3-0.

The game ended on a positive note for the Blues, as they battled to the end and capped off the loss with an excellent goal by veteran forward Taylor Day with 13 seconds remaining. Overall, while the Blues had a lot of difficulty getting quality scoring chances, their compete level was outstanding and their gritty style this year will serve them well in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) regular season.