The Blues launch a winning streak, with two wins in a week. COURTESY OF JIMMY WANG/VARSITY BLUES

Blues vs Lions

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team downed the York University Lions 2–0 on Thursday, November 21. The Blues are now in second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings.

Eager to snuff out a two-game losing streak, Toronto found themselves struggling to contain the Lions early on. With powerhouse defender Cristine Chao in the box early for checking, the Lions kept Toronto firmly in their end. Despite the pressure, goaltender Erica Fryer was unfazed, calmly performing a couple tough saves early on.

As the Blues found their rhythm, they began seriously challenging their opponents, using the speed of forwards Breanna Berndsen and Juliette Blais-Savoie to pressure the York defense. After a hard hit on Blues Captain Stephanie Ayres, Toronto opened the scoring on the ensuing powerplay. Berndsen, alongside rookie sensation Natasha Athanasaskos, set up Jana Headrick, who smashed her shot low past York goaltender Serena Vilde for her first goal of the season. York looked to have evened up the match with barely a minute to go in the period, but their goal was overturned after an appeal to the referee.

The second period was another back and forth battle, as the Lions fought to score a goal. Time and time again Fryer was an absolute brick wall, as York was powerless to put anything past her. Toronto was tenacious in their defending as well, but repeated penalties made it difficult for them to get much offensive momentum going. Veteran Jessica Robichaud had a handful of good chances to score, including a shot that just barely missed as the buzzer went off, but the Blues weren’t able to notch another goal that period.

York’s frustration was palpable as the third period started, and their play began to break down as they became rougher. Using their skills to chop at the chippy York players, Toronto finally padded their lead thanks to a rocket of a shot by Gabrielle De Serres, made off of a Mathilde DeSerres and Chao assist. York pulled Vilde with two minutes left in a futile attempt to gain a goal back, but ended up taking a penalty soon after and having to return her to the ice. Gabrielle almost got a second goal on a brilliant breakaway in the dying seconds of the game, but her shot was well saved by Vilde.

Blues vs Warriors

Given the state of the game, you would have had no idea that their previous matchup had ended with Toronto suffering a 5–0 loss.

One week after the blowout, the Blues women’s hockey team stormed back to topple the Waterloo Warriors 2–1 on home ice. The November 30 win puts Toronto back in second place on the OUA leaderboard behind York by one point and with two games in hand, and with Waterloo in third behind by only a single point. Cristine Chao and Lauren MacDonnell were the heroes of the night, and rookie MacDonnell notched the first game-winning goal of her university career. Erica Fryer once again put on a goalkeeping clinic, stopping 24 shots on the way to the Blues’ narrow win.

Toronto started the game off with a literal bang, as captain Stephanie Ayres headed to the penalty box for an early hooking. This set the tone for the rest of the game, which was fraught with tension and aggression. Adrianna Noble was a thorn in the Warrior defenders sides, refusing to let them body her off the puck.

The sister duo of Mathilde and Gabrielle De Serres caused further headaches to Waterloo with their physicality and speed. Toronto’s scrappiness paid off when Chao smashed a Madelyn Walsh pass off a Waterloo player and into the net, leading the Blues into the second period with a 1–0 lead.

Waterloo’s frustration began showing, as the second period got off to a start. Only three penalties were called, but plenty more were apparently missed by the referee — if the Waterloo fans’ cries of anger were any indicator. One penalty was Toronto’s, coming off of a well-executed trip from Meagan Barry to prevent a one-on-one on Fryer. The Toronto defense was stellar throughout the game, as players were quick to recover from mistakes and prevent the Warriors from causing too much trouble. When shots did get past, Fryer was all but unstoppable, smothering anything that came near.

The Warriors were finally able to figure out Fryer in the third period, when they took advantage of a missed Toronto breakaway and capitalized on the counter attack. Undeterred, Toronto began to push heavily for the go-ahead goal, peppering the Waterloo net from all angles and jumping defenders. With just under five minutes to go, MacDonnell sent in a shot that looped over the Waterloo goaltenders shoulder, and she was promptly mobbed by her jubilant teammates. Toronto successfully defended the desperate Warriors attacks to hang on for the win.

The Blues won’t return home until the new year, when they will face the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks on January 10.

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