Blues forward Breanna Berndsen battles her way around the boards. PHOTO BY MARTIN BAZYL, COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

The Toronto Varsity Blues women’s hockey team surrendered a close 3–1 match against the Queen’s Gaels on Friday night.

The last home game of the regular season marked grad night, a special occasion for graduating players Rebecca Bourgeois and Katey Teekasingh. Both players were honoured in a pre-game ceremony.

The Blues drew first blood as Breanna Berndsen found an open space in the slot and capitalized, scoring in the first period and giving Toronto a 1–0 lead. The Gaels still managed to create more opportunities on offense, leading 10–7 shots on goal after the first period. Blues goalie Madeline Albert finished the night with a save percentage of 0.905, stopping 19 of 21 shots.

Despite scoring on Gaels goalie Stephanie Pascal in the first period, the Blues failed to get the puck past her for the rest of the game. Pascal was sensational, saving an impressive 22 of 23 shots.

The second period turned sloppy for the Blues as they committed unfortunate penalties, providing the Gaels with the chance to take the lead. Blues player Stephanie Ayres was called for holding, which Queen’s capitalized on. The Gaels’ Katrina Manoukarakis, who is the Ontario University Athletics’ second leading scorer, immediately scored just six seconds into the power play, tying the game. Late in the second period, Manoukarakis found the back of the net again to give the Gaels their first lead.

Toronto failed to score in the final period despite having five more shots. Queen’s forward Jessica Wakefield scored an empty netter that went off of Blues defender Julia Szulewska, extending the lead to 3–1 and ending any hopes of a comeback.

“I loved every minute of it,” said Blues captain Rebecca Bourgeois when asked of her time as a Varsity Blue. “I’ve sat through a lot of these grad ceremonies and I’m so thankful that I had all my friends here for this one. I really enjoyed my five years here and everyone who has come through during that time.”

“We’re really just focusing on playing the full 60 minutes. Queen’s is a good team and I think we‘ve had a good run, but… we just need to focus on the little things and I think we’re well set-up for the future,” said Bourgeois.

With the loss, the Blues drop to a 13-8-2 record and fall to the fifth seed in a tight playoff race.

“I think definitely we want to make a run at it as far as we can. We’re aiming for that OUA banner… We’re going to go into it with pride and hopefully we’re going to play that way and come out successful,” said Bourgeois.

Toronto will finish their regular season on the road against the York Lions on February 16.

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