The Mustangs women’s hockey team‘s season ended in a tight 2–1 loss to the Badgers Friday night, falling short of the last playoff spot in the OUA west division.
Western University had the game tied at one until the last minute of play, when Brock University Badgers third-year forward Claudia Murphy scored with 44 seconds remaining in regulation.
Despite efforts to tie it up in the final moments, the Mustangs couldn’t capitalize with the extra attacker after pulling their goaltender, ending their season without a playoff berth.
Stumbling out of the gate
Western had a rough start to the game, taking three minor penalties in the first 10 minutes of play. The Badgers used this as an opportunity to shift momentum in their favour, squeaking the puck past Mustangs fourth-year goaltender Kaitlyn Booth to open the scoring after the Badgers’ third power play of the period.
Western began to turn the tides when second-year forward Alyssa Wouda drew a slashing penalty on a drive towards the Brock net. The Mustangs’ power play generated some chances, with second-year forward Madelaine DesRosier and fourth-year forward Hannah Irwin creating golden opportunities in the slot.
But the pair couldn’t get through Badgers third-year goaltender Kenzie Harmison.
Harmison and the Badgers defence continued to frustrate the Mustangs offence into the second period, blocking shots, forcing turnovers and keeping the puck to the outside.
The Mustangs broke through, generating shots in the slot. Yet, Brock kept Western off the scoreboard — a fact punctuated when Mustangs fourth-year captain Emma Suitor was robbed on a rebound attempt on an open cage in the dying seconds of the second.
A wild finish
The Badgers started the third period with some early chances but were turned away by Booth.
The game began to open up on a four-on-four play, after Western third-year forward Janneke Watt was called for tripping and Brock third-year forward Mikayla Flanagan was called for goaltender interference — both midway into the third. The Mustangs took advantage of the dying seconds of power play time, generating chances with drives towards the Badgers net.
This momentum swing led to second-year defender Gabrielle Lehoux solving the Badgers goalie with five minutes left in the game on a delayed Brock penalty call.
The Mustangs playoff hopes were looking promising until the dying minutes of the third — in next-goal-wins territory.
But then heartbreak struck for the Mustangs. Brock’s Claudia Murphy tipped a shot past Booth with just 44 seconds left in the game.
The Mustangs pulled the goalie for the extra attacker and drew a penalty for some six-on-four action in the dying seconds, but the Badgers kept the door shut and ended the Mustangs’ chances at a playoff spot.
A heartfelt goodbye
The disappointing end of the Mustangs 2022-23 season sees the departure of 11 experienced members of their 26 player roster. Western will look to fill this gap with new recruits and returning players, including first-year forward Haylie Kirkpatrick and second-year forward Adeline Kristoff — both were tied for first in scoring on the roster with 10 points each.
“We’ve got a good core moving forward,” said head coach Candice Moxley. “We have some pretty solid recruits coming in.
Team captain Suitor and alternate captains Hannah and Sarah Irwin were three of the 11 honoured before the game in front of the home crowd at Thompson Arena, as they prepared to square off for their final game in purple and white.
Booth — who saved 25 of the 27 shots she faced in the Friday night defeat — was also one of the seniors heading out.
“We talked about leaving the jersey in a better place than when you found it and every single one of those girls did just that,” said Moxley. “We've lost some solid leadership with [Suitor] and the [Irwin] twins and the goaltending [in] Booth. The past two seasons, [Booth] was phenomenal for us.”
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