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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Lady Wolves in good shape at midway point of round-robin play
by Randy Pascal

The Sudbury Lady Wolves have done everything that the local hockey faithful could have hoped for as the 2019 Esso Cup hits the midway point of round robin play at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex in Sudbury.

After comfortably disposing of the Halifax Fire, as expected, in their opening encounter, the Ontario champions have racked up back to back right-down-to-the-wire victories, topping the standings with eight points (2-1-0-0 / W-OTW-L-OTL), two points clear of the Saskatoon Stars.

With two games remaining in preliminary round action, the Lady Wolves have secured themselves a berth in the semi-finals on Friday, and now know they will be playing for a medal on Saturday. Based on their performance to date, the laurel up for grabs could easily be of the golden variety.

Riding the momentum of a championship banner winning weekend at provincials earlier this month, the Sudbury girls took about a period or so to acclimatize themselves to the packed and noisy environment of their home rink, tripling Halifax 6-2 on Sunday evening.

Alexe Clavelle and Taylor Scott scored two goals apiece for the winners, with Madison Laberge and Katie Chomiak adding solo markers as Cailen Hanzlik picked up the win between the pipes.

"At first, we were nervous, we were pretty uptight," said Scott, a second year midget who has already committed to the University of Ottawa Gee Gees and will be playing in the PWHL, next year, with the Ottawa Lady Senators.

"Most of us hadn't experienced that before. Going into the room (after the first period), we had to calm down, and then things would fall into place. Having the crowd here with us, it helped, it hyped us up and we got back into our game, and once we got back into our game, we were good."

There was substantially more drama in store in game two as the Lady Wolves and the two-time defending champion St Albert Slash from Alberta were deadlocked in a 1-1 tie with less than four minutes to play.

Abbey Patterson jammed home a rebound on a power play to give Sudbury the lead at 16:11 of the third, only to see Isabelle Lajoie pull the Slash even, with their goaltender on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, just over three minutes later.

In the end, an overtime penalty to St Albert would prove costly, as a blast from Madison Laberge at the point, redirected by all accounts by Taylor Scott, would stand as the game-winning goal, on the power-play, in period number four.

No overtime needed in game three, but no additional breathing room either for the locals as Sudbury outscored the Stoney Creek Sabres 2-1 in the opening frame and rode that advantage right through to the final buzzer in a rematch of the OWHA final.

Katie Chomiak and Lauren Hancock scored for the winners, with Alyssa Kawa squeezing a reply between the two Sudbury goals. Though the Lady Wolves outshot the Sabres 42-24 on the night - Stoney Creek goaltender Megan Warrener was superb in defeat - Sudbury puckstopper Mireille Kingsley was forced to come up big in the dying minutes, making a key pad save followed by a breakaway stop less than two minutes later.

"I was kind of excited," said Kingsley. "I like shootouts, I like breakaways, and having the crowd there to cheer me on was good." That said, she is quick to recognize the delicate balance, ensuring that the emotion of the crowd not take away from the task at hand.

"I think you have to take some of it and leave some of it behind," said Kingsley. "You can take some of the excitement and the energy and have that on your side. That's a good thing."

The host team will close out their round robin schedule with a huge matchup against Saskatoon on Wednesday evening and a battle with the As de Québec the next evening, before likely taking to the ice on Friday night at 7:00 p.m., with a trip to the final on the line.

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