The Western Mustangs women’s hockey team went through a tough road swing over the weekend, taking on the Queen’s Gaels in Kingston on Friday, then the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Ridgebacks in Oshawa on Saturday.
The Mustangs would fall to the Gaels 5–2 on Friday after giving up the first four goals of the game.
After arriving in Oshawa late Friday night, the Mustangs would have just hours to regroup as they had to play the Ridgebacks Saturday afternoon. The Ridgebacks jumped on their visitors after the opening face-off, hemming the Mustangs in their own end for the opening five minutes.
“It was a little bit of a frustrating start for us. We didn’t start the way we wanted to and we let UOIT take the momentum. So we had to battle back from that,” said Mustangs head coach Candice Moxley on her team’s start.
Western would eventually take a penalty, but a strong penalty kill seemed to give them some life, as they began to apply pressure. The teams would exchange lengthy offensive possessions for the remainder of the frame but would go into the first intermission scoreless.
28 seconds into the middle frame, the Ridgebacks would strike, as Chelsea Ball sent a pass in front of the net, which deflected off of the Mustangs’ Beatrice Dufour and into the back of the net.
The Mustangs were not playing their best hockey through the first five periods of their road trip, which coach Moxley was not a fan of.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking as a coach to be honest because we wanted to come out strong today after our performance last night and [today] was one of those nail-biters where you just didn’t know what you were going to get," said Moxley.
The early goal did not hinder Western too much though, as they responded with ample offensive chances of their own.
Midway through the second, Sydnee Baker would keep the puck on a two-on-one and shoot it into Ridgebacks’ goalie Brooke Vial, who appeared to fall into the net with the puck. The Mustangs celebrated a goal, but the referee waved it off as she did not conclusively see the puck cross the line.
Ironically, this is the second time in Baker’s five-game career with the Mustangs that she has had a goal disallowed, as just two weeks prior she had a clear shootout goal waved off, which eventually cost her team a win.
That was not the case this time though, as the Mustangs would finally get on the board late in the third period. Alyssa Chiarello would dance her way into the Ridgebacks end and snipe a shot blocker-side on Vial to give the Kitchener native her seventh goal of the season, and second goal in 24 hours.
“It was huge, and it really got the momentum going for [our] whole team so it was really exciting to see that go in for sure,” said Chiarello on her third period goal.
Under three minutes later, as a Western power play expired, Rachel Armstrong got open in the slot and fired a one-timer past the Ridgebacks’ goalie. It was Armstrong’s fifth goal of the season, and her second point on the night after picking up the lone assist on Chiarello’s marker.
“It was a good forecheck by [Clark], she was able to keep the puck in, went down low to Baker, she made a nice pass to me and [I] squeaked by the goalie," said Armstrong.
The Mustangs would brave a last-second push from the Ridgebacks to come away with a 2–1 win.
Carmen Lasis would give up one goal on 31 shots from the Ridgebacks-- a bounce-back effort from the sophomore goalie after giving up five goals on 18 shots the previous night against Queen’s.
“It was an opportunity for her to show her mental side of the game,” commented coach Moxley on her goalie, “she’s been great for us throughout this season she deserved another opportunity so as a staff we decided to go with her today and she came up with some pretty big saves for us.”
After playing rather sluggish, evidently tired from the travel, the Mustangs were able to secure three points against the lowly Ridgebacks to maintain their second seed in the OUA standings.
“We seem to be coming back from 1-0 deficits so we need to work on scoring first and keeping that lead,” stated Armstrong on what needs to improve.
However, despite sitting in second place in Ontario University Athletics — only three points back of top-seeded Guelph Gryphons — aren’t getting to far ahead of themselves looking ahead to the post-season: “we’re definitely excited we know there’s still lots of games to still get through and obviously we’re taking it game by game,” said Chiarello when asked about the playoff picture.
The Mustangs will hit the road again next week, as they play the Nipissing Lakers in North Bay on Friday, then the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury on Saturday.