Sergiy Slipchenko | Staff Writer
Featured Image: Holly Taylor was one of the Lions’ multiple stand out performances at U SPORTS. | Courtesy of Don Voaklander/University of Alberta
The Lions women’s hockey team faced off against the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues on Friday at the Varsity Arena in Toronto. The Lions ended the McCaw Cup Championship with a 3-1 loss, finishing in second place, which is the best result York has seen over twenty years.
The night was a buzz with excitement and anticipation as Lions and Varsity Blues fans filled the Varsity Arena. The players had yet to come on the ice, but the fans were already cheering, chanting and gearing up.
Although York fans might’ve disappointed by the results, anyone who enjoys Hockey would have left the arena satisfied. From the drop of the puck it was obvious that both teams brought their A-game and would not concede the trophy.
The Lions started off with confidence and aggression that was present throughout their entire playoff run. Even during power plays, the Varsity Blues struggled to keep the puck away from their net: the Lions continually pushed through their defence and took shot after shot.
Just under six minutes into the first period, Courtney Gardiner scored the first goal of the game. The Lions continued to apply pressure and kept control of the puck. However, at the 11 minute mark, Varsity Blues’ forward Jessica Robichaud evened out the score when she broke through the Lions’ defence with an assist from defenders Christine Chao and Madelyn Walsh.
The first period came to an end, and although the teams were tied, the Lions were performing much better. The Varsity Blues struggled to capitalize on their power plays as the Lions were continually running out the clock with superb defence, sometimes even squeezing in an attack
The score did not change during the second period, but the intensity and skill of the players kept the spectators on the edge of their seats. The tension began to boil over and both teams were becoming more agitated. In this period, the Lions had double the shots on goal of that of the Varsity Blues but failed to secure a lead.
The beginning of the third period marked the end for the Lions, as less than a minute in, Stephanie Ayres, assisted by Robichaud, scored the second goal of the game. The rest of the period the Lions were desperately trying to catch up, but even when the defence was pierced, goalie Erica Fryer did not let any shots through.
With only two minutes left on the clock, the Lions scored. However, the referees did not count it, as the Lions coach Dan Church explains: “The ref said we pushed the goalie into the net and she couldn’t make the save.” He continues, “I did not see it that way, but it’s unfortunate.”
With only slightly over two minutes left, the Lions decided to pull their goalie and go six on five in a final attempt to save the game. Only a minute later, the plan backfired, when Varsity Blues defender Christine Chao stole the puck and shot it down the ice, for the closing third goal of the night.
The women’s hockey team gave an amazing performance at Varsity Arena, and despite a disappointing conclusion to the provincial playoffs, they kept their heads up.
As team captain Erin Locke says: “It’s about staying consistent, we played a great game tonight and it was hard getting a loss, but we’ll practice and head back out there.”
Goalie Serena Vilde adds, “We’re really good at staying positive, it doesn’t matter that we lost today. We’re gonna go into nationals with our heads high and we’re gonna kill it.”
This week the team is travelling to the national championships in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and will face the McGill Martlets on Wednesday, March 13 in the opening round.