Women’s hockey team wins first playoff game
THE REGULAR SEASON is over and its playoff time. The University of Ottawa women’s hockey team (6-13-1) began their Réseau du sports étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) playoff season on Feb. 22, hosting the top-ranked University of McGill Martlets (18-1-1). The Gees embraced the roll of the underdog and shocked the league as they battled hard to pull out a 2-0 victory over a team they had yet to beat this year.
“[The team] played an exceptional game” said head coach Yanick Evola, commenting on his team’s effort. “This is what we have been waiting for all year.”
First-year goaltender Stephanie Mercier wasn’t intimidated by McGill’s past victories, stopping all 37 of the Martlets’ goal attempts en route to her first shutout of the year.
“She did a great job” said coach Evola of Mercier’s performance. “She’s been outstanding and she [helped us] win that game big time.”
Throughout most of the game, McGill remained in control of the puck and used their speed and passing to dominate the play. The Gees’ solid defensive effort saw them outwork and upset the Martlets’ offence.
“Overall, our defensive squad was really strong for us” said Evola. “We know we are not going to score [a lot] of goals against McGill … so defensive zone coverage is key for us.”
Ottawa remained patient and comfortable in the defensive zone as they kept the score tied at zero for the first two periods, waiting for their chance to capitalize on a Martlet mistake. With under three minutes left in the game, third-year forward Fannie Desforges made a pass to first-year forward Elarie Leclair, who buried the puck in the back of the net putting the Gees ahead 1-0.
“It was just about taking a deep breath and relaxing” said Evola. “The girls, they knew what to do. We practise that over and over … We have a great bunch of [people] in that group and that is why we are able to overcome obstacles like that.”
McGill pulled their goaltender with under a minute and a half remaining in the game in hopes of gaining the advantage, but the Gees were able to fight them off and sealed the game with an empty net goal by third-year forward Dominique Lefebvre bringing the final score to 2-0.
“Personally—and I know the girls on that team—they] are not going to be satisfied with one win” said Evola. “We want to win the series … We have some goals; I’m talking about national championships.”
The Gees-Gees look to move one step closer to realizing those goals as they try to clinch the series against the Martlets on Feb. 24. in Montreal.