PHOTO BY MARTIN BAZYL, COURTESY OF THE VARSITY BLUES

Supporters turned out to watch the Blues women’s hockey team kick off their regular season in fantastic fashion on Saturday night, as the squad posted a 5–3 comeback victory over the Windsor Lancers. It was a true team effort for the Blues, as five different players scored and 10 recorded points on the evening.

Toronto dug themselves into a hole early, as Windsor fired off two quick goals in the first four minutes. The Blues caught a tough break later on in the period, as Taylor Trussler and Louie Bieman were sent to the box for minor penalties about a minute apart. Amy Maitre was quick to take advantage of Windsor’s five on three advantage, converting on powerplay to put the Lancers up 3–0 with five minutes remaining in the first.

Maitre’s goal proved to be the last for the Lancers, however, and Toronto remained poised, relying on its veteran leadership and the strength of its forecheck to counter Windsor’s chippy, physical play. Stephanie Ayre’s goal from Trussler and Mathilde de Serres with about 30 seconds left in the frame was “really big” for the Blues, said Bieman, proving to energize both players and fans alike as the Blues headed into the first intermission down 3–1.

The latter two periods were all Blues, as Toronto scored four unanswered goals between the two periods to put the game away. The home side upped its intensity on their forecheck and absolutely dominated the second period, with the visiting Lancers struggling to even advance the puck past the centre line out of their own zone. Lauren Straatman scored a powerplay goal on the back of some great puck movement from Cristine Chao and Louie Bieman to cut the lead to just one point with 12 and a half minutes to go in the second, while Kassie Roache tipped in a beauty feed from Jana Headrick just three minutes later to tie it up at three apiece.

The Blues came storming out of the gates in the third, bringing fans to their feet as de Serres buried the go-ahead goal off an Ayres rebound just a minute into the period. Bieman provided the insurance marker with six minutes left in the game, showing off some nifty stick work to deke out the Windsor tender right in front of the crease and making it 5–3 Blues.

Coach Vicky Sunohara was pleased with her team’s ability to “keep composed,” and she credited the strength of the forecheck as well as the first line of Straatman, Bieman, and Roache, who “clicked well, passed the puck, and created a lot of chances.”

Fifth-year assistant captain Julia Szulewska gushed about her team’s performance under pressure. “You could just see it in our eyes that we wanted it more,” she said. “[The comeback] shows what kind of team we are. We don’t give up, and it was amazing to see.”

Second-year goalie Madeline Albert was solid, stopping 18 of 21 shots for the win.

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