All good things must come to an end.
After winning the first two playoff series in Mustangs women’s hockey program history, their run through the Ontario University Athletics playoffs ended against the Laurier Golden Hawks. The Golden Hawks, the number one ranked team in Canada, took game two by a score of 5-1 at Thompson Arena on Saturday night.
The loss ended the Mustangs miracle run, which saw them win 10 of their last 12 games, including series wins over third-ranked Toronto and fifth-ranked York. On Saturday night, though, Laurier’s depth proved too much for Western.
“We thought our depth could wear them down because we can skate, check their lines, and make it tough on them,” Rick Osbourne, Laurier head coach, said.
The Golden Hawks’ ability to roll four lines slowed the Mustangs and helped them win their eighth OUA championship in the last nine years.
Laurier’s balanced attack kept Western from gaining any momentum throughout the game. Further frustrating the Mustangs were Laurier’s quick shifts and dump and chase tactics, which wore down Western’s defence as the game went on.
“Western’s a good team, it’s just hard to play from behind against a team like us,” Osbourne said. “We send our lines out 30 seconds at a time and use our speed every chance we get.”
Mustangs head coach Chris Higgins said Laurier kept them from creating many chances throughout the game.
“They pressured us all game and they didn’t give us any shots,” Higgins said. “That was their strategy.”
Coming into the series, Western’s power play had been nearly unstoppable in the playoffs. However, against the Golden Hawks, they went 0-for-13.
“What they did was pressure us. The teams we played before didn’t pressure us,” Higgins said. “Next year we’re going to have to make adjustments and practice against a similar penalty kill.”
From the first drop of the puck, the Golden Hawks came out of the gate, controlling every aspect of the game.
Laurier started the scoring with two goals, 19 seconds apart, only four minutes into the game. They would add another goal later in the period.
“We didn’t want to wait around because it looked like [Western] was one of those teams of destiny—when they needed a goal, they got it,” Osbourne said. “We needed to make sure we worked hard right from the start to not let them get comfortable.”
The Mustangs settled down for a scoreless second period before Stacey Scott opened the third period to cut Laurier’s lead by one.
The Golden Hawks would add another two goals later in the period for the 5-1 victory.
Laurier outshot Western 49-22 and fired 91 shots to Western’s 39 in the two-game series.
Although disappointed with the loss, the experience has been memorable, Mustangs forward Katie Dillon, said.
“It’s been amazing. To make the playoffs and win two series has been incredible,” Dillon said. “It would’ve been over the top to have won this series, but we can’t be too upset about it. The girls that are still on the team next year need to look forward.”
The deep playoff run is more than what was imaginable two months ago when they were without a playoff spot.
“It’s been an amazing way to end our four years at Western,” Dillon said. “We have silver medals in our hands and that’s not something we would have envisioned a couple of months ago.”
Heading into next year, the Mustangs will have raised expectations. The playoff run has put Western on the radar of other teams.
“The expectations are higher now,” Higgins said. “We’re going to have to play better next year, but this experience will be great for us.”