The Western Mustangs' women's hockey team opened up their Ontario University Athletics semifinal series with a 1–0 road win over the Guelph Gryphons on Wednesday night. With the victory the Mustangs go up 1–0 in the best-of-three series.
It was a defensive showdown of teams that had near identical regular season records. While both teams had 50 points, the Mustangs won 18 games, one more than the Gryphons. The Mustangs reached the semifinal with a sweep of the Toronto Varsity Blues, while the Gryphons swept the Brock Badgers in their best-of-three quarter-final series.
The Mustangs had vengeance on their mind when heading into the opening game of their series, as the Gryphons won the two regular season meetings between the rival teams.
It was fifth-year forward Megan Taylor who put the Mustangs within a game of the McCaw Cup finals with the only goal and the inevitable game-winner.
Mustangs goalie, Carmen Lasis, earned her first shutout of the postseason, and her fifth of the year, with a 23-save performance. The rookie is now a perfect 3–0 in OUA playoff games.
“I’m not surprised at all," said Mustangs head coach, Kelly Patton, on her goalie's performance. "Carmen has been doing that for us all season and it’s just a continuation of what she did during the regular season, coming up big for us when we need it.”
Both teams played to a scoreless stalemate in the opening period as the Gryphons slightly outshot Western 8–7.
The second period saw more of the same between the two teams. The game remained tied until just under two minutes into the third period, when Taylor scored on assists from Evra Levesque and Ali Beres.
While the Gryphons pressed hard in the game's waning moments, Lasis held on in net to complete the shutout and the win.
The Mustangs have now won nine straight games going back to Jan. 21. Despite the fact that the Mustangs are guaranteed a spot in the U Sports National Championships as the host school, the team has remained driven to win the program's second OUA championship in four years.
“It’s something that we talked about at the beginning season that it’s an amazing opportunity to host a national championship tournament, but it shouldn’t be our main focus," Patton said. "We’ve done an awesome job of staying focused and driven on winning an OUA championship and we have to keep that same mindset.”
The second, and potentially final, game of the series is scheduled for Friday night at 7 p.m. at Thompson Arena. Patton hopes to see improved transition play from her team to produce more scoring chances. Despite having five power-plays the Mustangs only fired 19 shots on Guelph goalie, Valerie Lamenta.
If the Mustangs win this series, they go on to the McCaw Cup to meet the winner of the series between the Queen's University Gaels and Nipissing University Lakers.