Solid start a distant memory for L.U. women
by Randy Pascal
A very nice start to the year has given way to a very tough stretch for the Laurentian Voyageurs women's hockey team.
Back on November 2nd, coach Stacy Colarossi and company found themselves right in the thick of the OUA playoff race. An impressive 2-1 road win
over the Nipissing Lakers had bumped the L.U. record up to 3-2-1-1 (W-L-OTW-OTWL), a pace that most certainly would see them returning to post-season play in early
On November 9th, however, the Voyageurs squandered a 2-0 third period lead, as the Brock Badgers rallied in St Catharines to post a 3-2 shootout win.
While it is likely unfair to over-emphasize the effects of that loss on the psyche of the Laurentian ladies, the fact remains that back to back losses,
this past weekend, to the York Lions (1-0 in OT) and the Nipissing Lakers (4-2), at home, have extended the locals winlesd skid to six games, a
stretch in which the team has registered only two more points in the standings.
All of which means that the L.U. crew will need to piece together at least one stretch of exceptional hockey in the second half if they want to see their season extended
beyond February 16th, the date of their final regular season game against York in Toronto.
Now sitting at 3-6-1-3 (14 pts - the OUA women award three points for a win in regulation time), Laurentian find themselves in 10th place, with eight
advancing to the quarter-finals. The UOIT Ridgebacks (6-6-0-1) are certainly within shouting distance, just five points ahead and holding down the
final playoff spot.
Likely of greater concern for the Voyageurs are the ninth place University of Toronto Blues (5-5-0-1), just two points ahead of L.U., but with
two games in hand. In fairness, a season split with Nipissing would be completely acceptable if not for the tough loss the previous day, to the Lions, a
team that has finished below Laurentian in the standings in four of the five years of the existence of the women's program in Sudbury.
Goaltenders Karen Collins (LU) and Eva Hall (York) combined to turn aside 53 of the 54 shots that they faced on Saturday. Unfortunately,
it was a three on three tally from Erin Locke that would make all of the difference in the world, allowing the Lions to cap off an outstanding
northern swing, after edging the Lakers 6-5 in overtime in North Bay the previous day.
Nipissing would break even on the weekend after overcoming a slow start against the Voyageurs. Outshooting the Lakers 8-5 in the opening frame, the
homeside were rewarded with a dazzling end to end rush from freshman defenceman Carley Olivier, who capped off the highlight reel play by roofing a
backhand over the shoulder of former Sudbury Lady Wolves' teammate Danika Ranger, drawing the start between the pipes for the visitors.
The second period was pretty much all Nipissing, with Jetta Derenoski scoring on the power play, Maria Dominica tucking home a breakaway
beauty, and Hunter Mosher burying the eventual game-winning goal late in the frame.
The Voyageurs pulled to within one when blueliner Regan Toltesi drilled a shot off the post and in, early in period three, only to see the Lakers
reply just over four minutes later, as a shot from Keara Anson deflected past Collins to restore the two-goal advantage.
Colarossi's squad will kick off 2019 with key games right out of the gate, playing host to the Waterloo Warriors (6-3-1-1) and Laurier
Hawks (2-8-0-1) on January 5th and 6th.
An L.U. optimist will look at the final eleven game stretch and note that Laurentian still has two games against the winless Windsor Lancers
(0-10-1-1), though the pessimist will add that the same holds true versus the defending OUA champion Western Mustangs (7-2-0-2).