A week after their overtime loss to the Waterloo Warriors in the McCaw Cup Final, the women’s ice hockey team were outmatched 3–1 in the U SPORTS Championship Final against the Concordia Stingers on March 17. 

Held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the Blues endured a gruelling tournament in which they played three straight back-to-back games, beating the University of New Brunswick Reds 2–1 in the quarterfinals, and the Université de Montréal Carabins 2–1 in a shootout in the semis. The Blues, who were looking for their first national title since 2001, could not in the end overcome the Stingers, who won their second gold medal in the past three years. 

What happened?

The number-one-seeded Stingers showed their dominance early as forward Emilie LuSsier buried her own rebound just a minute into the game. Momentum stayed with the Stingers throughout the period as the Blues fell back on their reliable team defence to stave off waves of shots. Despite tenacious Blues forechecking, the team struggled to establish offensive zone time, finding the puck bobbling out of the stick on multiple occasions. 

Midway through the period, the Stingers added a second goal courtesy of tournament MVP Jessymaude Drapeau, who squeezed the puck past Blues goaltender Erica Fryer. 

Entering the second period with a 2–0 deficit, the Blues looked for an advantage early in the period and did so by drawing a penalty just 18 seconds into the period. However, the power play unit wasn’t finding success, and the Blues struggled on zone entries and gave away short-handed chances. The Blues and Stingers each drew a penalty soon after, subsequently earning the Blues another unsuccessful power-play opportunity midway through the period. Toronto’s stellar penalty defense — which had been perfect to this point in the tournament — was juxtaposed with lacklustre offence with the advantage. Fryer capped a perfect period with a stellar pad save as she heroically slid across the crease on a dangerous look by Concordia. 

The final period saw the Blues leave everything they had on the ice. Concordia scored their third goal on the powerplay five minutes into the period, but the Blues refused to give up, peppering the Stingers’ net with shots and looking to spark a comeback. With Fryer pulled from the game, defence Emma Potter finished a solid game by forcing a point shot through on the Stingers’ net. Yet, with only a minute left in the period, it was too late as the game finished 3–1 for Concordia.

What’s next?

The Varsity Blues end their 2023–2024 season with silver medals in both their provincial and national championships. Despite frustrating results in both finals, the Blues ended a brilliant season with their best result at the U SPORTS championship since 2003. 

With a large number of Blues playing the final games of their collegiate careers, head Coach Vicky Sunohara and the rest of the women’s hockey program have their work cut out for them in the off-season to rebuild the team.