The Western women’s hockey team’s playoff hopes were dashed last Sunday as the Waterloo Warriors eliminated the Mustangs 3-2 on the road to claim game three.

The series was a rematch of last year's first round, which saw the Mustangs sweep the Warriors two games to none. The Warriors will now advance to the McCaw Cup semifinals for the first time in their program's history.

“I think that we battled as hard as we could and it could have gone either way, and it just didn't work out as we had planned,” said fourth-year forward and team captain Emma Pearson. “I'm proud of the effort our team gave and I think we could have deserved better results.”

Game three saw the Warriors come out strong, leading the Mustangs 2-0 after the first 20 minutes of action. Ryan got her second straight start in net and her second straight start in an elimination game. The Mustangs had momentum heading into the second period, but a disallowed power play goal at the start of the frame wrecked havoc with the Mustangs focus.

“That was a pretty big momentum swing for us emotionally and it made it hard to fight back after that,” said Mustangs head coach Kelly Paton. “I think [Waterloo] did what they needed to do in the third to protect their lead and it allowed them to win the game and the series.”

The first game was a 2-1 overtime victory for the Warriors, as Marissa Redmond scored 13 minutes into the overtime time frame to give her team the win. Fifth-year netminder Katie Jacobs got the start in net for the Mustangs.

The Mustangs offence proved to be hot as they outshot the Warriors 41-29. Second-year forward April Clark opened the scoring for the Mustangs, tying the game at one at the end of the first. Pearson scored the Mustangs' second goal of the game with under seven minutes left to tie the game at two and send it to overtime.

“We really gave them a good run and I think the series really could have gone either way,” said Pearson. “I think just from that series we just have a bunch of building blocks for next year to have more success than we did this year."

Game two was another tightly contested affair, heading to overtime for the second game in a row. The Mustangs came out on top this time, by a score of 2-1. First-year goalie Shelby Ryan got the start in net, stopping 32 of the 33 shots she faced. Clark then lit up the scoreboard, scoring both Mustangs goals. Her first goal came with 37 second left in regulation and the overtime winner 11 minutes into the extra frame to stave off elimination.

“Both teams had a chance to win every game, and I think you can attest it to the two overtime games to start the series,” said Paton. “Both teams played really well so we certainly want to congratulate Waterloo on their efforts and wish them luck moving forward.”

Despite the disappointing end to their season, the Mustangs are hopeful. The past two years have been tough with coaching changes, high player turnaround and most of the Mustangs' star players graduating. However, the team seems to have found its identity and are already looking forward to next season.

“Especially in our younger girls, they'd never experienced playoffs before and so I think they really kind of started to embrace it and grew in their roles,” said Pearson. “We’re able to have more success once they got over nerves, there’s a lot of positives to look on it.”

Clark stood out with three goals in two games, leading the Mustangs' offence. Ryan proved herself in net, and hopes to end the Mustangs' goaltending woes. With a strong group of young players set to come in September, Paton is looking forward to next season already.

“There's a lot of excitement around September already, and we want to continue to get better if we want to be competing for a national championship,” said Paton. “We'll go down to Kingston and check out how they run nationals, and hopefully next year we can be just as successful.”

As an added incentive to work hard towards next season, Western is set to host the 2018 U Sports women’s hockey championship. The team has their work cut out for them this summer, but come September, expect bigger things from this young Mustangs squad. 

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Claire is a third year Media, Information and Technoculture student. She is a first year sports editor at the Gazette. Have a question? Email her at claire.palmer@westerngazette.ca

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