Entering their fourth Ontario University Athletics (OUA) final in five years as title defenders, the Varsity Blues women’s ice hockey team fell just short of securing their 20th McCaw Cup banner on March 9, losing 2–1 in a hard-fought battle against the Waterloo Warriors at the Varsity Arena. 

What happened?

In a high-energy building filled with raucous chanting from both home and away fans, the first period proved to be a cagey affair with minimal stoppages in play during the opening five minutes. 

The second period was defined by special teams with three and two penalties given out in quick succession to the Blues and Warriors, respectively. Particularly impressive was OUA all-star and Blues team captain Taylor Trussler, who continually put her body in the line of fire on the penalty kill. Blues defence Caroline Eagles continued a string of impressive contributions on both ends of the ice, as the team rallied to nullify an agonizingly long 101-second 5-on-3 penalty kill. The period ended with neither team showing any cracks in their airtight defence.

The Blues defence stepped up during the second period. ZEYNEP POYANLI/THE VARSITY

The Blues opened the scoring on the first shot of the game, as forward Juliette Blais-Savoie rifled the puck glove-side on a savvy stick-lift touch pass from linemate Emma Elders. Despite leading the game, momentum swung in the Warriors’ favour as the period progressed when Warriors forward Carly Orth answered with a snipe of their own at the 14-minute mark. Strong team defense saw the Blues hang on to the 1–1 scoreline going into the intermission.

The intense war of attrition continued into the third period, with the Blues fighting to gain an advantage on every inch of the ice. The period’s highlight was provided by OUA all-star goaltender Erica Fryer, who topped her incredible game thus far with an incredible windmill save followed up by a herculean recovery for another save on a shot from a wide-open Warrior in the slot. Strong sticks and saves from both teams saw the intensity continue as the period wound down, with the Blues defensive core continually stepping up in crucial moments.

The Blues fell to the Warriors in overtime. ZEYNEP POYANLI/THE VARSITY

With the sudden death format of overtime, the crowd reached a fever pitch as the Blues played nervy end-to-end hockey. The teams exchanged breakaways before Waterloo capitalized on a turnover, just over eight minutes into the overtime period, to win their first McCaw Cup in program history.

What’s next?

The Varsity Blues still have a chance for silverware this season as they turn their attention to the U SPORTS championship in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, starting March 14. They will look to secure their first national title in 23 years as they face off against the best teams across Canada.