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To the payoffs we go

Women’s hockey determined to go far

After being nudged out of the playoffs by the Carleton Ravens last year, the women’s hockey team is back with a vengeance and ready to start fresh. Finishing their previous regular season with a record of 7-1-12, the Gees are convinced this year will be theirs for the taking.

The squad has been doing well in their pre-season, winning four of seven games against their Quebec and Ontario rivals. They still have a long way to go before they make it to the playoffs this year, especially with many new faces on the ice.

“It’s reconstruction period for us,” explained Ottawa head coach Yanick Evola in an interview with the Fulcrum. “We lost a lot of players last year, so we have 15 new faces this year that are going to be wearing Garnet and Grey. The expectations as a head coach are about making sure we progress on a consistent basis … getting better as a team and a group.”

According to Evola, the team has been playing hard in camp, putting more focus on forechecks, breakouts, penalty kills, and power plays—areas they have struggled with in the past. For the players, the exhibition games have been the ultimate test, allowing them to learn the new rules put in place by the Quebec Student Sports Federation (RSEQ).

“[The exhibition games were] really good because, first of all, there are a few new rules in the RSEQ in women’s hockey,” said Evola. “For example, head shots: Every hit that goes to the head of the player, we get either a two-, four-, or five-minute penalty. It helps us understand the rules better [and] we were able to play against some really good teams.”

Evola is not concerned about the large number of rookies on the Gees squad this year and has expressed excitement over showing them off during the first few home games at the U of O. In addition to their regular recruits, the Garnet and Grey is playing host to select star players from across the country.

Offensively, the squad will see two first-year forwards take the ice—Carling Chown, a British Columbia native and former member of the provincial team, along with Elarie Leclaire, who played for the Under-18 Team Canada. Defensively, first-year Valérie Watson is expected to make a large contribution.

While the team seems positive about the new additions, it will take them time to mesh together and learn how to work as a group. Their biggest challenge will be to quickly learn each other’s strengths and remain consistent in their plays throughout the season.

“When you play in the [Canadian Interuniversity Sport league], you only play 20 games in the regular season,” explained Evola.

“I think the teams that are doing well are those that show up for the whole 60 minutes. We cannot play a good first and second period and lay down for the third and take it easy. We know it’s going to be really consistent playing—60 minutes and showing up every game.”

The Gee-Gees’ women’s hockey team will kick off the regular season at home on Oct. 15, hosting the Concordia Stingers at 2 p.m. at the U of O Sports Complex.

—Tiffany Carroll