Blues women’s hockey back to their winning ways

Toronto beats York 2–0 to snap losing streak, defeats Waterloo 2–1

Blues women’s hockey back to their winning ways

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.

UTSG: Women’s Hockey Final — UTSC vs. OISE/SKULE

Come out and support the Women’s hockey teams in the Fall Semester finals between UTSC, OISE, and Skule! Free transportation will be provided from the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC) to Varsity Arena and back. The bus will pick students up at TPASC at 5:30.

Blues men’s hockey win ninth straight game

Toronto defeats Western 6–3 to keep winning streak alive

Blues men’s hockey win ninth straight game

The Toronto Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeated the Western Mustangs on Saturday at the Varsity Arena. This win moved the Blues record to 11-2 and vaulted them into first place in the Ontario University Athletics West standings.

The Blues got off to a slow start, with Mustangs left winger Kolten Olynek getting on the board with an early powerplay goal. The Blues responded when newcomer Kyle Potts buried a rebound off a shot from Justin Brand. Toronto’s pressure continued, and they got another goal to end the first period with the lead when Ross Krieger shot home a one-timer off a two-on-one opportunity with only a minute left in the first period.

Toronto’s leading scorer, David Thomson, continued his hot start to the season, firing an innocent-looking shot on the Western goal, which found its way into the net, giving the Blues a 3–1 lead.

With roughly five minutes left in the frame, Krieger entered the zone with a burst of speed, and tried to go wide on the Western defenseman, but was knocked down. Krieger then regained his footing, deked past two Western defenders, and found Kyle Clarke for the tap-in goal. Western was able to get another goal on the board before the period ended, but Toronto was feeling confident going into the third period, having doubled their lead from the previous intermission.

Toronto scored two more goals in the third period, the first a deflection from Chase Olsen, and the second a goal batted out of mid air by Oliver Benwell. Though Western was able to get one more goal, they weren’t close enough, as Toronto cruised to a 6–3 victory.

Toronto outshot Western 35–25, and goalie Alex Bishop had a 0.880 save percentage to earn the win.

Toronto’s next home game is against the Waterloo Warriors on Saturday, November 30, at the Varsity Arena, where they will hopefully continue to be undefeated.

Blues men’s hockey team wins home opener

Toronto narrowly defeats Guelph with a 3–2 victory

Blues men’s hockey team wins home opener

The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team won their first game of the season this Friday, with a tight 3–2 score over Guelph. The Blues played in front of a packed stadium at the Varsity Arena, the crowd excited to see the opening game in a season where the Blues hope to improve on their record from last season.

Blues head coach Ryan Medel started out with a line of Chase Olsen, David Thomson, and Joey Manchurek, with the latter getting on the board immediately with an early goal. Thompson shot the puck from the point, causing a scramble in front of the Gryphons net and giving Manchurek the opportunity to tap in the 1–0 goal.

For the rest of the first period, the Blues spent more time in their own zone than in Guelph’s, but Toronto goalie Alex Bishop stopped some key chances for the Gryphon’s to maintain the lead. Toronto also managed to kill off two penalties, with the defensive players clogging up the lanes and stopping some key passes to keep Guelph off the scoreboard.

The Blues heavily relied on the line of Olsen, Thomson, and Manchurek throughout the game, both at five-on-five and on the power-play. “I thought right from the first shift that [the line] showed a lot of jump,” Medel said in a post-game interview. “Obviously they scored early, and any time a line scores early, they kind of play with a little bit of extra confidence.”

He continued, “But I think for the most part they played two ways the entire night. I liked their shift length and they seem to be fresh every time. I called their name and they played more in the offensive zone. So they got rewarded for that.”

In the second period, there was a large scrum in front of the Toronto net, which resulted in only one holding penalty for Guelph’s Stephen Templeton. On the ensuing Toronto power-play, newcomer Kyle Potts won the draw back for his defenseman Justin Brand. Brand passed it across to his defensive partner Willy Paul, who teed up a quick slapshot under the glove of Guelph goalie Andrew Masters, giving Toronto a 2–0 lead.

Play was much less one-sided in the second period, as Toronto was able to trap Guelph in the neutral zone and prevent them from breaking into Toronto’s end with ease. However, Toronto was unable to stay out of the penalty box, and were penalized three times throughout the period.

Toronto’s penalty kill was relatively strong, but with Riley Bruce — one of Toronto’s top penalty killers — being assessed with an interference penalty at the 2:45 mark of the second period, Guelph was able to get on the board. Guelph defenseman Ryan DaSilva made an innocent-looking shot toward the Blues goal, which was redirected into the net by Gryphons’ forward Connor Bramwell.

Toronto was better at staying out of the box in the third period, with only one minor penalty committed. Their lone penalty kill saw excellent forechecking from forwards Curtis Harvey and Scott Kirton. “I thought our [penalty killers] did a decent job,” Medel said. “I thought we got better as the game went on.”

“We had a real good kill in the third. We were more aggressive and didn’t give them an opportunity to set up. They do have a real good power-play. They find seems, take a lot of shots. It’s an area we’re gonna continue to work on and improve.”

On a routine breakout at even strength, Manchurek was able to turn the puck over from a Guelph defenseman, and passed it over to David Thomson, who sniped it home for the 3–1 goal. Although this looked to be the insurance marker, the Gryphons were able to bring the game back within one goal, when a shot from defenseman Cole Cameron fluttered over Bishop’s right shoulder with 3:39 left on the clock.

That was, however, the last goal of the game, as the Blues were able to hold off the Gryphons’ last-ditch efforts to tie it up. The game ended 3–2 for Toronto, and Bishop ended the game with 29 saves on 31 shots.

The women’s hockey team is set to play their home opener on October 26 against Windsor. 

The Blues women’s hockey road to the national championships

Veterans Kassie Roache and Meagan O’Brien reflect on their careers and more

The Blues women’s hockey road to the national championships

Though the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team settled for silver against the Guelph Gryphons in the McCaw Cup Final on March 9, that game wasn’t the end of their journey. The team had their eyes set on an even bigger prize: the 2019 U SPORTS national championship. It’s been 18 years since the Blues won the national championship. This year, the underdog Blues had looked to make some noise against the top-seeded Alberta Pandas while fifth-year forwards Kassie Roache and Meagan O’Brien had hoped to end their varsity careers with a national championship. Unfortunately, they fell short.

Roache and O’Brien credit their extensive athletic backgrounds as the key to their success. Roache started playing hockey at the age of four. “I started skating when I was about two, my parents made a rink in the backyard. And then I started officially playing hockey at age four,” Roache says. O’Brien peaked a little later in her career. “I was put in the Timbits hockey school program when I was seven years old. So that was the first time I ever geared up in my equipment,” O’Brien notes.

Coming from a big city, O’Brien’s earlier life in Brampton was substantially focused on academics and sports. “Throughout my high school career, I played basketball, volleyball, and flag football,” O’Brien says. “I was always trying to be keen on my academics, but I was never one to stay inside and read books.” Her family was also involved with sports. “On my mom’s side I think all the boys in the family played hockey, and then my uncle also played soccer, I think that’s where I got the love of being a goalie.”

Roache comes from a much smaller town. “I’m from Corunna, Ontario, which is a small town near Sarnia,” she says. Her distinctively small hometown gave her a reason to focus on playing sports when she was younger: “There’s maybe 5,000 people when I was growing up.” Growing up, baseball, lacrosse, and hockey were her favorite sports to pass the time. Roache isn’t the only athlete in her family, as her three sisters play hockey and lacrosse as well. “My middle sister Carly, she’s still playing lacrosse right now. They just won their provincial title last summer, so that’s pretty cool.”

O’Brien and Roache both are avid Maple Leafs fans and they grew up idolizing several Leafs players. “If you look at my closet, you can see about five different sizes of a Matt Sundin jersey because I just kept outgrowing it. So that was definitely my favourite player growing up,” O’Brien explains. “I really liked Curtis Joseph and Tie Domi,” Roache adds.

The pressure of playing for one of the top schools in Canada can add some serious weight to one’s shoulders, especially as a rookie. Roache notes that her experience in her first year was quite different from what she was used to.

“When I came in, I think I was one of two people that didn’t play junior, which is the highest level. So not playing at a pace that the other girls were used to, I felt like I was a step behind,” she says. O’Brien agrees with the difference in the overall atmosphere as well. “Especially coming from a team where you were just a senior and you know, probably the leading goal scorer. You come in and you’re like a little fish in a big pond all over again,” she says.

Although playing for a university was certainly different, O’Brien tried to make the best of it. “As a rookie on the team there was obviously pressure to try to keep a spot on the lineup, but we just always tried to constantly remind ourselves to enjoy every moment, even if it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, or if we weren’t getting the ice time we now get,” she explains.

Now both players are in their final year, and have gotten used to the intense schedule of a student athlete.

“It varies heavily, day to day. Some days I’m up at 6:00 am and we’ll go until 9:00 at night. Other days I won’t have anything until 10:00 am or noon, and then I’ll be going till 10:00 pm,” Roache says. She notes that her daily schedule can be hectic and spontaneous. “It’s very hard to be able to wake up at different times everyday.”

This schedule can be very time-consuming, especially for a full-time university student. “You’re always looking at a practice for sure, but some days we have up to three practices,” O’Brien adds. “Daily, we always have at least one practice, and sometimes a workout. And then weekends are games, always.”

Although daily routines can be stressful and busy, they try to make the best of it. “I’d say friends and family help a lot,” Roache says. “To just have people in your life that are there to support your goals and just to help out in any way possible, like send meals up, or bring groceries when they come… I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own, I don’t think.”

O’Brien stresses the importance of friends and family too. “I have the privilege of living not too far away from all of my family in Brampton, so on our days off I’ll try to go have dinner with my parents or my grandparents, or my baby sister… you know, just remind yourself that hockey and school aren’t everything,” she explains.

O’Brien acknowledges that student athletes aren’t necessarily ‘celebrities’ on campus. “You can tell that there’s part of the student population who have no idea about the sports that exist here,” she says. At times, however, O’Brien does have some experiences with fans. “I was at Mount Sinai, my teammate broke her wrist. Someone saw our hockey backpack and came up to us, shook our hands and congratulated us on our success.”

Both take the time to be regular students though. “If I need a break from studying, I’ll just pick up a guitar and start playing,” O’Brien says. Roache, like a lot of students, enjoys watching Netflix in her spare time.

The two players recognize the importance of having a family-like bond with their teammates. “I feel like without the support from teammates, sometimes you wouldn’t make it through your days,” Roache says.

“We’ve always got each other’s backs. And don’t get me wrong, you go through trials and tribulations together… But you celebrate your successes with them,” O’Brien adds.

Despite their closeness, their playing styles on the ice contrast each other. When asked to describe herself, Roache says, “As a player, I would say annoying. Gritty. I’m very aggressive.” O’Brien, on the other hand, plays a more cautious game. “I try to avoid getting penalties, and I’d say I’m like a grinder.”

Despite their varsity careers coming to an end, their love for the game will never change. “I think it just brings a lot of people together and you kind of have a common goal,” O’Brien says. “You have your fans and family that come out to watch you,” she adds. Roache acknowledges what hockey has done for her. “It helps you grow, [develop] leadership skills.”

Both players will be walking away from the game to see where the future takes them. “I’m currently waiting on results of certain applications, but as for my next plans I don’t really know exactly where I’ll end up. But I know I want to end up in medical school and hopefully become a doctor one day,” O’Brien says.

Roache is in a similar situation. “My plans are pretty undecided right now, but I think that one thing that I will always have as a goal for myself will be to just bring what I’ve learned and what I’ve developed over the last five years into my workplace… whether that be a workplace or another hockey team.”

At the end of the day, being able to put on that jersey and represent U of T carries a deeper meaning for varsity players. “It’s an honour and a privilege, and I think I’m just going to miss that student-athlete life and you know, being surrounded by the best teammates ever,” O’Brien says.

Blues women’s hockey take silver in McCaw Cup Final

Guelph Gryphons earn 4–2 victory to win OUA Championship

Blues women’s hockey take silver in McCaw Cup Final

In their first McCaw Cup Final in a decade, the Varsity Blues women’s hockey team fell short of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title in a 4–2 loss against the Guelph Gryphons. Guelph hosted the final, after posting an OUA-best 16–4–2 record in the regular season.

Kassie Roache opened scoring for the Blues, receiving a well-timed pass from Kiyono Cox and wiring a slap shot into the top corner to give the Blues a 1–0 lead. The Gryphons didn’t answer back until there were five minutes left in the opening period; Mallory Young tipped a pass to Claire Merrick, who shot past Blues netminder Erica Fryer to level the score at 1–1.

Fryer was busy early and often in the first period as the Gryphons forced her to make seven saves. The rookie was well poised between the pipes, making 14 saves by the end of the second period and allowing just one goal from the highest-scoring offense in the OUA.

But the Gryphons outmatched the Blues in the third period, scoring three unanswered goals to pull away in a contest that had been otherwise level from the opening face-off.

Katie Mikkelsen’s power-play goal 31 seconds in saw Toronto’s one-goal lead evaporate. Kristen Jay put the Gryphons ahead 3–2, with Merrick scoring a late goal to end any hopes of a Blues comeback.

After a strong 60 minutes, the Gryphons lifted the McCaw Cup for the third time in the past four years.

Despite the loss, the Blues season continues next week as they head to Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island for the chance to capture a national title at the USPORTS National Championships.

Blues women’s hockey team earns spot in McCaw Cup Final

Julie Szulewska scores late game-winning goal

Blues women’s hockey team earns spot in McCaw Cup Final

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team is headed to the McCaw Cup Final after defeating the Western Mustangs 2–1 on Saturday at Thompson Arena. The victory came less than 24 hours after the Western Mustangs forced a winner-takes-all match with a win at Varsity Arena in the best-of-three OUA semifinals. This is the Blues’ first trip to the OUA women’s hockey finals in a decade.    

Blues fourth-year forward Jessica Robichaud scored the opening goal of the contest midway through the second period. Fourth-year forward Stephanie Ayres’ pass deflected off a Mustangs defenseman and Robichaud corralled the loose puck, launching a quick shot to beat Mustangs goaltender Carmen Lasis.

The Blues found themselves in multiple shorthanded situations throughout the second period due to their undisciplined play. Toronto committed three penalties in the period and a total of five in the game, while Western only registered two. Mustangs third-year forward Sydnee Baker capitalized on Megan O’Brien’s body checking penalty late in the second period with a powerplay goal to even the score at 1–1, with less than four minutes remaining in the period.

Blues fifth-year defenceman Julia Szulewska tallied the game-winning goal for the Blues with six minutes left in the third period. Louie Bieman played a sharp-angled pass across the crease, and Szluewska fired the puck five-hole and past Lasis.

Western scrambled to level the score in the final minutes of the game. Mustangs head coach Candice Moxley pulled Lasis, with 90 seconds remaining for the extra attacker. While the Mustangs’ overwhelming puck presence forced Blues first-year goalie Erica Fryer to make a few sprawling saves in the final moments, Western was unable to find the back of the net.

Fryer continued her strong play this season, recording 22 saves.

With their victory over the Mustangs, the Blues will face the Guelph Gryphons on March 9 in the McCaw Cup Final and have earned a bid to the U SPORTS Championship.

Varsity Blues women’s hockey in home playoff action

Blues earn crucial Game 1 playoff victory over Nipissing Lakers

Varsity Blues women’s hockey in home playoff action

 

Blues second-year forward Louie Bieman attempts to corral the rebound away from Lakers second-year goaltender Danika Ranger (Click to Expand).

 

Blues fifth-year forward Lauren Straatman and Lakers second-year forward Sam Strassburger stay focused in anticipation for the face-off (Click to Expand).

 

Blues fifth-year forward Meagan O’Brien attempts to get back into the play (Click to Expand).

 

Blues first-year defenceman Jana Headrick looks back at captain Becki Bowering (Click to Expand).

 

First-year goaltender Erica Fryer watches at the puck sails past her crease. (Click to Expand). DANIEL SAMUEL/THE VARSITY

 

The Varsity Blues women’s hockey team opened the OUA playoffs with a convincing 3–1 victory over the Nipissing Lakers on February 20 (Click to Expand).