This past Wednesday, the U of T Varsity Blues women’s hockey team secured the first win of their conference playoffs against the University of Guelph Gryphons. The intense game ended in overtime with a score of 3–2.
The Blues and the Gryphons’ conference opener was an evenly matched, aggressive game that promised an exciting series to come. In the first period, Toronto controlled the ice: defender Gabrielle De Serres opened the scoring when she found the back of the Gryphons’ net with an assist from Mathilde De Serres. The Blues followed up on this with a tip-in goal from fellow defender Christine Chao, assisted by Jana Headrick. However, the Gryphons cut the Blues’ lead in half when forward Lauren Ianni took advantage of Toronto’s double penalty and scored Guelph’s first goal of the game.
This fast-paced and physical playing style continued into the second period, as the Gryphons managed to tie the score in the first 10 minutes with a goal from Stephanie Gava. Toronto remained scoreless throughout the second period, but the Blues’ defensive line and goalie Erica Fryer were successful in holding off any further goals from Guelph.
The third period began with several great shots on the net by Blues players Chao and Laura Ellis, who really challenged Gryphons’ goalie Aurore Beaulieu. On the other end of the ice, Guelph forwards Gabriele Underwood and Karli Shell had the opportunity to go ahead with a two-on-one play in the Toronto zone, but Beaulieu held them off. The period continued with rapid back-and-forth plays between the two teams, but both goalies rose to the challenge with some great saves. The period ended in a 2–2 deadlock, in spite of Toronto having 11 shots on goal and Guelph having 10.
With the score tied, intensity ramped up dramatically as the already high-pressure game entered a 20-minute sudden-death period. This high-speed period consisted of a major struggle for control of the rink, as the Blues would not give up. The game seemed to turn in the Blues’ favour, with about 10 minutes left in overtime when Guelph received a two-minute penalty for tripping. Despite the extra player advantage, the Blues were not able to capitalize on the penalty with a goal.
With just over three minutes left in the game, Guelph called a timeout that allowed the Blues to regroup. Madelyn Walsh delivered a blistering shot on net that almost ended the game, but it wasn’t over until Lauren MacDonnell and Chao set up Gabrielle De Serres for the winning tip-in with under three minutes remaining.
Toronto emerged victorious against the defending 2019 champions with a great finish. The Blues will play their second game of the conference when they travel to Guelph on Saturday, February 22.