CARDIAC GAELS

An Oral History of the 2011 Queen’s women’s hockey playoff run By Sean Sutherland, Features Editor
A historic hockey game took place on March 2, 2011, witnessed by just 312 spectators in a university rink. The Queen’s Gaels and Guelph Gryphons clashed in a battle where six overtimes were needed to decide the winner. It was the second-longest contest in North America — the longest since a 1936 meeting between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Maroons. After playing for nearly the equivalent of three whole games, Queen’s finally prevailed, with Morgan McHaffie — a Guelph native — proving to be the overtime hero. For the players on the Gaels roster that night, the extra ice time was both an once-in-a-lifetime moment and their fourth straight overtime contest. McHaffie’s goal was the culmination of an unbelievable game — although with four seconds left in regulation, overtime wasn’t a possibility.
But that game was only part of the story. Two nights later, one more overtime was required to declare Queen’s the OUA champions. A fluke goal by a rookie defenceman — the first of her CIS career — proved the difference.
In five playoff games, Queen’s had 478:42 of ice time — 78 seconds less than eight full games. They won all five in overtime and brought home a title that Queen’s hadn’t won since 1978. Five games. Five wins. Thirteen overtimes. A title run like no other.
Everyone interviewed for this piece is identified by the position they played or job they held during the 2010-11 OUA women’s hockey season.
Five games. Five wins. Thirteen overtimes. A title run like no other.
Matt Holmberg We had a very veteran-laden team, a bunch of fifth-year players who had been trying for years obviously to win a championship … there was a lot of expectation there.
Liz Kench To be honest, we just peaked at the right time. We didn’t have that incredible of a regular season that year and I think just before playoffs we just sort of just pulled together as a team.
Mel Dodd-Moher If I remember correctly, we lost 8-1 to Laurier in January and that was kind of a wake-up call. We hadn’t really been playing that well before that.
Hover here to see the speaker's details. I remember a lot of the vets after that game thinking they’ve only got two months left to go, is this really how we’re going to go out? We know we’re better than this.
We felt pretty good about where we were heading into the playoffs, but we were still unranked, and we had Windsor right off the bat. Thankfully, even though they were ranked, we still ended up ahead of them by a point or two because of our finish.
Morgan McHaffie The first game, I remember us being down 1-0 and it was scary because it came down to one game. We worked so hard all year for one game and that could have been it.
It was a one-game quarterfinal and we were down and had to score with probably 10 minutes left in the third just to tie it. And then double overtime and Kelsey Thomson scored and that just started the ball rolling.
Beating a tough team like Windsor was a bit of a statement for us, but I knew we were setting ourselves up to play Laurier, who I think we had beaten maybe once in the previous five years combined. Taking two from them would be a tall task.
Kalen Ingram Assistant Coach
From my time with the team, I don’t think we had ever beat Laurier.
Kristin Smith Then we went on to play Laurier, of course, and even people around the school were like, ‘You’ve had a good season’. But we’re like, ‘No, we’re winning this.’
Jamie Howieson Sports Information Assistant, Queen's Athletics and Recreation
I was working for Mike Grobe [Athletics’ Sport Information Director] at the time … he was like ‘do you want to go to the [Laurier] game, do you want to cover it?’ and I said ‘sure’.
I think both those games were 2-1, and Britt, I just remember Britt, she had some incredible games and then getting both of those two overtime goals. That was sort of the start of the whole McHaffie allure, 
I guess.
Brittany McHaffie Liz Knox was in net and we had a faceoff to her left. I was on the inside hashmarks and we barely had any time and I said to Morgan, ‘just shoot it’. It got half-way there and I sort of scooted between the defenceman and the centre and whacked it and somehow it went in the net.
Honestly, the majority of our goals the entire playoff run were goals like that. Just garbage goals. I think that took our confidence to another level. We were just riding high and at that point we couldn’t lose. We weren’t afraid to lose — we were just playing to win. That’s when game two came around back here in Kingston and right from the bat, right from the beginning of the game, they were playing scared. Our line at the time was myself, Griffin and the other Smith — so Alana Smith. Our line had a nickname at the time and Matt said ‘SAC [Smitty, Animal and Cookie, the trio’s nicknames] Line, you’re up’ and he said ‘you guys are going to score this game, this period is yours.’
Alana Smith Second-year forward
I believe it was Shawna who got that goal. I just remember rushing to the net. I believe it was a rebound Shawna got off, if I recall correctly. I just remember how excited we were to tie it up and we were just jumping all over each other.
We felt loose; we didn’t feel much pressure and Brittany McHaffie did it again. The goal was kind of the same just on the other side of the faceoff, I remember. It was in our barn to the right of Liz Knox and I just chipped the puck ahead and I shot it and it squeaked in.
Katie Duncan Winning against Laurier was probably bigger than anything we had ever done.
Shawna Griffin First-year forward
I remember finishing that series and I don’t think I’d partied harder than that week after that series. It was pretty crazy, especially some of the vets, not winning against Laurier ever and then beating them in a series.
I think beating Laurier — and Laurier had won seven championships in a row going into that — there was just that ‘hey, we beat this team, we can do anything’.
Becky Conroy Fifth-year forward
We’d get down in games and nobody would seem to get down on each other. We had to win every playoff game in overtime but somehow we went into every game knowing we would win.
We knew if we gave the effort, we would beat any team in the OUA.

THE BUILD-UP

The Gaels struggled to find their footing over the first half of the 2010-11 season. They held a 7-6-4 (Win-Loss-Overtime loss) record leading into a road clash with the seven-time defending OUA champion Laurier Golden Hawks on Jan. 9. After suffering a blowout loss to the Golden Hawks, Queen’s won eight of their nine remaining games, finishing at 15-8-4, setting up a one-game quarterfinal matchup with the Windsor Lancers. The Gaels entered the post-season on a six-game winning streak in which they didn’t allow more than one goal in any of their outings. Head Coach Second-year goaltender
Fifth-year forward Second-year forward
Third-year forward
Second-year forward
Third-year defenceman
When we lost to Guelph my first year, I was so upset and I was like, we aren’t going to let this happen two years in a row and we’re going to come back even stronger next year. From a preparation standpoint, we did a much bigger Costco shop than we normally would from the double and triple overtimes we had earlier. So we stocked full of juice and fruit and all kinds of things in case we went into those extra periods, which turned out to be very fortunate. I always hated playing in Guelph — most of the girls did because the ice is so big. We just weren’t used to it. I was excited to play Guelph because I’m from Guelph and I have a lot of friends on the team and I knew I’d have a lot of family there. It’s tough playing in Guelph — they’re a rowdy crowd, you could say. So our goalie knew that she was going to get heckled, but we again kind of went in one shift at a time. I remember pulling aside the three rookies that were playing in that game, Shawna Griffin, Alex Cieslowski and Kelly Eustace and just saying to them “Hey, there’s a lot of fifth-years on this team — Liz Kench, Becky Conroy, Kelsey Thomson — they’ve waited their entire careers to get to where you are right now — that is the OUA finals. So make sure you enjoy these moments and don’t let games like this pass you by.” We had no idea what was about to come. I still remember that game, thinking we had all decided we’d score the first goal for once. Let’s get them on their heels.
When they scored it was like “ah well, we can come back.” I’ll never forget the player that scored for them. As she went to the Guelph bench to celebrate, she did a little dance in front of our bench. I still remember how motivating it was for us on the bench to see that. To see that overconfidence that they were sort of showing — that helped motivate us.
Instead of sitting there and being disappointed, we took a step back and realized this is what we’re used to, this is what’s been the trend for us, this is what we’re good at. What a lot of people don’t realize, or might forget is that we had to pull our goalie and score with three or four seconds to go to send it into overtime. They got up 1-0 and I remember with a minute left or so we took a timeout and set up a play. It didn’t end up working. We went offside. I remember it was the last faceoff in their zone. There was about 30 seconds left in the third period and 
Matt — our coach — had put out all the vets. It was Morgan McHaffie, Brittany McHaffie, Michelle Hunt, Liz Kench, Becky Conroy and Kelsey Thomson, so as much firepower as I could imagine on one line. We left the goalie out and so now there’s only about 30 seconds to go with a faceoff in the neutral zone. And Becky Conroy, who was phenomenal on the draws, got it, we got it deep and got it in. Then they took a timeout and we had kind of a last-ditch effort. It was kind of a Hail Mary in their zone that 
went in. I remember everyone on the bench was standing up. I was standing on the bench to see over people. It was the craziest little — almost a rugby scrum or a rugby ruck — in the crease and I just remember each of us sort of had a Guelph player on us and sort of were just battling for position. Kelsey was standing almost behind the net and then Kelsey — we knew there wasn’t basically any time 
left — and I’m just yelling at Kelsey ‘Get it out in front, shoot it, shoot it, shoot it.’ So Kelsey shoots it out front and all of a sudden Becky’s basically falling on the ice and knocks it in. I had to dive in the air and hit it with my stick. That was what I was trying to do. To be honest, it was mostly luck that helped me make contact with that. We’re way down at the other end and can’t really see much. But something just happened and someone throws their hands up in the air and the whole bench went absolutely insane. It’s incredible how close all of that came to never happening at all. I think back if that goal didn’t go in that would have never happened — the whole entire game. I was like ‘oh my gosh, we’re going to overtime’. Then the game just kept going and going and going. That was the turning point for us in the game. In our minds we’re in it now, this is ours for the taking. We didn’t just score that goal for nothing.
Having already played 61:29 of overtime through their first three playoff games, the Gaels travelled to Guelph to face the Guelph Gryphons — the same team that bumped them from the 2010 playoffs — in the first game of the 2011 OUA Finals.

ON THE ROAD

For the fourth time in four post-season games, the Gaels surrendered the contest’s opening goal. Guelph forward Tori Woods beat Mel Dodd-Moher 7:29 into the third period.
Sport's Editor,
Queen's Journal It was a Wednesday night in Kingston. I was hanging out with my friends and trying to pay attention to the game as much as possible. It just got later and later and later. Finally, I just put my computer away.
Mel Dodd-Moher again stood strong because they ended up outshooting us throughout the course of the whole game. There were a couple of breakaways that she stood tall and a couple of power plays that Guelph had that she stood tall. Guelph dominated. They had so many chances to win that game and I just remember Queen’s was just so tired. They couldn’t skate. One of our passes was too weak and they went in on a 2-on-0 on Mel. She was just so calm and she saved it like it was super-easy. There was a couple posts, crossbar. I remember one specifically went off Liz Kench’s stick up into the corner crossbar and out. You just kind of got the feeling that it was meant to be.
It was an innocent almost-pass from Guelph that Kench tipped up into the crossbar. You know that goes an inch the other way and it’s off the corner and in and the game’s over. In the first one or two overtimes, we coughed the puck up a couple times in our own zone and I think they must have had five or six clear-cut breakaways [by] some of their top scorers and Mel Dodd-Moher was there every time. It’s funny because we didn’t get all that stressed. She had been there all playoff long and all season long and she was just cool as a cucumber back there. They had pounded us in shots, but I was never too concerned because our goalie, Mel, was always on her game. I remember whenever they took a shot, I never flinched. I knew that she would get it. I know she ended up with 66 saves at the end of the night. She just kept battling for us.
As the game sort of started to drag along, Britt actually scored off a rebound that should have counted, in the third or fourth overtime. Morgan took a shot on the goalie and it literally bounced off her pad onto my stick and I shot it in the net. [The ref] thought the goalie had it from her reaction and he couldn’t see it behind her, but Brittany saw it, and just as Brittany was skating to it and putting it in, he blew his whistle. I think he later admitted to one of the players that he was actually wrong. He was like “that should have counted.” Or maybe it was after the game [that] he said “I’m so glad they won — or you guys had won — because you should have won.” He skated over to the bench — and much to his credit — said “look coach, I just lost sight of it — that was my bad.” Matt, obviously being the guy he is, just accepted it. He didn’t get too angry. Thank God, it was game one. I feel like it would have been a different story had it been the final.
At the same time, when I look back, had they would have counted it wouldn’t have been the record game. So at the same time I’m like, maybe it was a good thing. The Guelph men’s hockey team had just left when we were getting there to play a road playoff game against I believe Western. They had gone, played the game, driven back and walked into the arena and we were still playing. So they stuck around. Guelph intramurals were supposed to start after our game, so more and more people that were playing Guelph intramurals were pouring into the arena, realizing this was happening and obviously they had to cancel their games, so they stuck around and watched it.
Jeff Chan Photographer, Queen's Athletics and Recreation
I kept looking at my watch the whole time because I had to drive back to Toronto whenever the game ended. I was thinking ‘Oh my God, I’m already falling asleep and it’s going to be another hour and a half to get home after the game.’
Once we got through the fourth overtime period, I knew that it was getting into pretty rare territory.
I think we had asked Matt a few times and he didn’t have an answer right away. I was definitely thinking this is getting pretty long, there’s got to be some record we’re pretty close to. I seem to recall after the fifth overtime period, somebody maybe came down and said something. I don’t know who it was — maybe it was the communications guy, Jamie — that we’d either set a record or were close to setting a record or something like that. I remember sort of feeling as the overtimes started piling up ‘gosh, if we don’t score and win this, we’re going to regret that we tied it up’. You kind of felt whoever won that game was going to win the series. There was sort of this feeling of whoever loses this game as it sort of wore on and on and on, it’s going to be hard to come back emotionally from that. As stressful as the situation was, there was no negativity, there was nothing like that. It was all positive, we were all there with smiles on our faces. And eager to go out for the next opportunity there. I’ve been a part of teams in the past growing up in sports and playing, that people get frustrated, the coach gets frustrated, but our team, it wasn’t the case. They were just sending the same six forwards, the same four defence out. On our bench everyone was huffing and puffing, everyone was on their feet. If you had taken a picture of the benches at the time, all of us were on our feet, eager to get out there and fight together as opposed to their bench. It was kind of quiet in the first couple of overtimes because everyone’s nervous and we all wanted to win, so I think everyone was staying focused. Then as it started going on, people started loosening up a bit because everyone started getting so tired.
There wasn’t much talk about hockey during the overtime periods. It was people trying to make jokes, saying things like ‘Come on, I’ve got to get home’ or like making jokes about it. Matt had gotten into the habit — the very good habit — of packing snacks and all sorts of things for the bus ride. If it was a Guelph trip, we probably would have stopped on the way down for a meal somewhere, but he also made sure the bus was stocked with snacks — healthy snacks, fruit, granola bars, that sort of thing — to make sure that if anyone was hungry on the bus they’d have something. So as the game wore on we pulled those snacks into the locker room. We had no Gatorade, no Powerade, no bars, no nothing, so all the parents were scrambling to get change and giving us whatever they could find in the arena at 12 o’clock in the morning. I remember coming off after each overtime period in the dressing room and we’d just have our feet up on the bench, laying back, just to get the blood flow to our heart. It sounds like the most ridiculous thing, but at the time it made sense. I could see everyone’s face in the room from where I was sitting. That for me, for whatever reason, is a picture in my head of the ultimate team unity and the ultimate no matter if we win or lose this game, it’s a win — that sounds really cheesy and dumb, but you know what I mean. We didn’t even realize how weird it was until parents said after, when they had come in to drop off the drinks they were thinking ‘What are you guys doing?’ I remember Matt came in to do his speech once again and he walks into that and just chuckles and says ‘you guys are ready, get back out there.’ I said to my assistant coach ‘I wonder if they’re getting tired and frustrated and whatnot’, so my plan was to go into the room and either tell a joke or something. And I pop my head into the room and they’re all lying on their backs with their feet up the benches just to keep the circulation going in their legs. So all their heads were basically in the centre of the room, almost in a circle and they were singing, they were singing a song all together and they were laughing. We were playing some of our favourite songs from that year. One was Shinedown, “Diamond Eyes” it was called. Another was Katy Perry’s “Firework” song.
First-year forward I just remember just being in the dressing room with our legs up and we’d be dying. Then we’d be singing or just doing anything to keep our energy up and stay awake.
I poked my head in, saw that, closed the door, turned around to my assistant coach and said ‘they’re good to go’.
Conroy’s goal would set the stage for an overtime battle, one in which the Gryphons would take an offensive advantage. The Gaels were outshot in four of the six overtime periods, though both sides would have their chances to end the game well before any record was set.

GAINING MOMENTUM

Kate Bascom
At the 15:08 mark of the fourth overtime, the two teams broke the record for the longest CIS women’s hockey game in history, surpassing a February 12, 2000 game between the Toronto Varsity Blues and the York Lions.
While the game continued to drag on, the Gaels had to find ways to stay focused between periods. But a dwindling food supply and sore bodies were not enough to change the Gaels’ mindset that night.
Alex Cieslowski
The longer the game went on, it just seemed more important to win it. So the stakes were getting higher and when the stakes are higher, it just makes it that much more exciting.
Michelle Hunt I do remember before going on — before we scored that last goal — thinking like I can’t believe it’s gone on so long. We can’t go onto another period. We have to win this now.
We said in between overtimes, if we don’t win it now, we aren’t winning the championship. The period in which the goal was scored was technically the ninth period of the game. I remember looking up at the scoreboard and where the scoreboard indicates what period it is. It’s only one digit. I remember saying to my assistant coach ‘If we go one more period what are they going to do? Does this roll over to zero?’
The most I remember about the play that led to the goal was our defenceman broke up a play at the blueline. Even though as fabulous as the goal was, I think that’s when we knew we won it. She broke up a two-on-one. With the second goal, I think I just remember having to keep it in their end. It’s funny after that — and give credit to the Guelph goalie — but after all of that it was a good hard shot to the far pad by Alex. I just picked up the puck and I went down, not even thinking that I was going to make an assist or anything. The goal at that point was just to get as many pucks on net because you never know. Anything could go in. I saw the puck land on Alex Cieslowski’s stick. So I was just thinking, she might shoot, just go to the net, stick down, battle for position. Alex ended up taking a great low, hard slap shot from the corner and it just seemed magically to land right in front of me and I was able to put the rebound in as I was falling on the ground. And then just when it went in, it was like, ‘Oh my God, finally.’ I remember falling and as I was laying on the ground, I saw the puck just so slowly trickle over the goal line.  I remember for that game my dad got invited by his boss to go to a Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins game in Toronto. So my dad couldn’t make my game and he never missed my games. So the Leafs game finishes and we’re still playing. So he’s watching with my mom and it’s one period goes by, the next period goes by. And then at one point he’s like ‘I’ve got to go, this game isn’t ending.’ I think it was a minute after I got the assist he showed up. The puck went in and then she went in and it was over. I said it before. It’s almost too bad that a team had to win a game like that because it was pretty special. It’s nice that it wasn’t a disputed goal. It was a clear-cut goal, there was no argument. I was just happy. Had it been the goal that we got at the end of regulation, it would have been a bit of a downer to win on a goal like that. Though I would have taken it at that point. My first reaction was ‘great’, but I was waiting. I needed to confirm with the ref and see him pointing at the net and blowing the whistle before [celebrating]. I just sort of put my arms up and as soon as I went to stand up and cheer with the team, Michelle Hunt just came in and tackled me right back down to the ice.
I still don’t know if I yelled. I was so tired. But I was very excited, I remember. I jumped on the ice, got in on the dogpile.
Kelly Eustace We all just collapsed on her. We didn’t have enough energy to cheer.
I just stood there for a few seconds and was just like ‘wow, it’s over and we won.’ It was cool. And then I finally skated down and joined everyone. We had a little handheld video thing and I grabbed Morgan after the win and she was just beyond exhaustion. Just struggling to catch her breath. There’s that — it’s up on YouTube — that minute-and-a-half clip we did with her and just the exhaustion mixed with joy because they were one step away. So I remember when I stepped off the ice, the gentleman who interviewed me said, ‘This is the second-longest game in hockey history and the longest in history for university and college hockey, how does that feel to you?’
She can barely talk. Not necessarily from exhaustion, but from the sheer exhilaration of it all. It’s just pure joy on her face and in her smile and what she’s saying and I know the rest of the team felt that. When he said, ‘What does it mean to you?’ and I said, ‘Nothing’. I was just so relieved that we won, that I was so exhausted I could barely bring together words to speak to him after, so it was pretty crazy. At the time I think I was just so overwhelmed with joy and excitement that I was just like ‘Oh, whatever. It’s just another game.’ Say two tennis guys will go for hours and hours, or there’s a sporting event that they’ll describe as a marathon. That will usually spark a TSN Top 10 — Top 10 marathons. And last time I saw them do that, we were still seventh on their list. To be at that game, to kind of be able to say you were there for that moment in history would be great. And to have a better story than I was just hanging out at my ghetto house at 1 a.m. would have been much better. It’s really something that people talk about when they win the Stanley Cup and do all these crazy things and for us — for Queen’s — that was a massive milestone for us and for women’s hockey.
The game surpassed the record for longest collegiate hockey game 22 seconds into the sixth overtime. With just under three minutes remaining in the ninth period of action, one team finally found the back of the net.

THE GOAL

Fourth-year defenceman
First-year defenceman
Almost immediately after, Matt told us on the bus, ‘It’s a great win, guys. It’s something to be really proud of, but we have a game on Friday that we need to finish off at home and that’s what you need to be focusing on now.’ We sort of didn’t realize how long the game was and where it stood in the ranks of long games until we were on the bus on the way home and people were checking their phones and seeing various news outlets were tweeting about the game.
We had stopped at a truck stop at 3 a.m. and the Tim Hortons had no food left. I remember Matt saying, ‘How can you not have bagels left? You’re a Tim Hortons. These girls, you’re going to see them, you’re going to hear about the game’. So there was no food. I remember Matt as I stepped off the bus was like, ‘Morgan, I’m really sorry, but we have to be up at 7 a.m. to do some interviews.’ So that meant I only had an hour and a half, two hours of sleep. I don’t think we got back into Kingston until about 5:30 in the morning. That was a Wednesday night and some of the girls had classes and I think even one had a midterm the next day. I know I had a midterm the next day that I was planning on writing, because I was expecting to be back by 12 at night. We ended up getting in at six in the morning. I emailed my professor saying I just got home from a hockey game, is it OK if I not write the exam. They emailed back at noon and said ‘yeah, that’s fine’. A friend of mine who was also on the team, we were actually in the same class and we actually — for whatever reason — promised each other we would go to the 8:30 lab. So we went to bed for like three hours and then went to the lab, did that like half-asleep and then went back to sleep until, I guess, 4 p.m. It all just seemed like a dream, really. I want to say I went on Twitter or I got a call from my Assistant Sports Editor, Lauri [Kytömaa]. It became a really big thing right away. I went to bed and I got a few hours sleep and then I went back into the office for 11 o’clock. By that time the national media is on the story, so you’ve got the CBC calling wanting to do an interview. We had to call Morgan and Brittany back in to the office for like noon, 12:30 and they had barely slept at all. Myself and a couple of the players — Morgan McHaffie and a couple of the others — were immediately being asked for interviews. I was in law school at the time and I can remember going to my classes wanting to burst and announce to the class how exciting an evening I had the night before. But I just sort of carried on with my classes as if nothing had happened.

THE LONG RIDE HOME

Morgan McHaffie’s goal came at 12:52 a.m., on what was now a Thursday morning, five hours and 15 minutes after the opening puck drop. The Gaels had a 333 kilometre trek back to Kingston ahead of them.
It was amazing to think that they had to go back on the ice less than 48 hours later. The second game was at home and at that point, it was pretty much we might as well just finish it off. I remember we had maybe 600 fans in the stands at that last game, which was unheard of. It was exciting; there were people there. I had been out to the arena so often where I would be one of 10, 15 people there. It would be family members and maybe a couple friends and whatnot, so to see actual Queen’s students there who might not have even had a relationship with any of these players was just really great to see. You know, Guelph being Guelph, they went up 2-0. I remember going into intermission in previous years 
— and it’s hard not to when you get down two goals — you get a little deflated. And just before the second period ended, Kelsey Thomson stepped over the blueline and scored on a long wrist shot. I remember turning to my assistant coach, Kalen at the time. I didn’t say anything, but I gave her a look that said, ‘here we go’. On the bench we were still fairly silent at that point and as soon as she scored that goal it was like the switch went on. We were back to our old selves. I could just tell the feeling in the room, even though we were down 2-1, was ‘yep, we’re going to do this.’ There was no doubt in that room whatsoever. All of a sudden the game is tied at two and you’re thinking ‘Is it happening again?’ And of course it goes to overtime again and all I can think about is the last game.  You could tell both teams did not want to go another six periods of hockey, so there was a lot of back and forth and big effort on both sides to finish it as early as possible. The way it all wrapped up was one of the flukiest sports moments I’ve ever seen in my life. And when you think about the whole run that we had, it sort of epitomizes some of the bounces that we got. A couple of seconds to go, the puck was cleared by Guelph, it went off a Memorial Centre stanchion and dropped into the neutral zone. Kelly Eustace, who hadn’t done anything all year — she was a stay-at-home rookie defenceman — grabbed the puck inside the red line and literally flipped the puck. Here I was, this rookie defenceman. I think I was the only rookie defenceman at that point. She kept apologizing to everyone all year. ‘I know I’m not a goal scorer, I’m a stay-at-home defenceman, but I haven’t scored’. And everyone was just like ‘everyone has a place on the team, just keep going’.
Me, Thomson and I can’t remember the third player at the time — it might have been Becky — we came out of the zone and we were skating for a regroup, and Kelly just shot it in. I was on the ice with five seconds left and went to turn around and skate up because there wasn’t much time left. I saw Kelly flip the puck from our blueline, I think, and it just kind of wobbled in. All it was, was a dump and chase to end the period and it went in and that ended up being the winning goal. And that just goes to show we never had a bounce go our way, so we had it coming. Their goalie either thought the period was going to end, or lost sight of the puck and it went in.
And it’s funny because there’s a video still on YouTube, and you can see her turn around and start to skate back to the bench even before she realized what had happened.
Just like in the previous one, there’s a few moments of concern because the referees and linesmen had to convene because it happened so close to the buzzer. They talked it amongst themselves and decided it went in and there we go, OUA champions. There was no stopping me. I was already celebrating because I knew that that goal would stand up. We just flooded off onto the ice and ran to Mel. Just dogpile after dogpile. Everyone just jumped off the bench and came rushing to me. It was pretty crazy. We didn’t want to leave the ice. It was the best moment and sharing it with my 18, 19 teammates that were there, all of us from the beginning — it was incredible. We celebrated like no other after that, and it was super exciting knowing that we were going to be on our way to nationals after that. The hockey gods, or — however you want to phrase it — someone was on their side. To do what they did in the first game and then follow that up in the second game was just magical. That game for me, when we put in that last goal, it was just kind of an icing on the cake for how bizarre the series — the playoffs — were for us. Obviously, it’s tough and I’ve got a ton of respect for the Guelph team and coach Flanagan. The year before they had beaten us in the playoffs after we had had a good start so this was a bit of retribution for us. Since then our two teams have had a pretty good rivalry and that was really just sort of the start of it. I know people always refer to us as the Cardiac Gaels and we sort of used that nickname throughout the playoffs — Cardiac Gaels — because of the length of our games and how we never stopped going and we never gave up. There was no drama, there were no cliques. It was a team that was as united as I’ve ever seen. The first year when we lost to Guelph, I remember Allie Bagg, who was the best captain I had ever had in hockey — just an incredible human being and incredible leader — and I remember when we lost to Guelph and it was her fifth year. Just the tears coming out of her eyes and she was so upset.
Every game Britt and I would talk, and just the two of us on the way to the arena or wherever we were going, ‘let’s do this for Becky, let’s do this for Liz, let’s do this for Kelsey. Let’s do this for Matt’. Our heart behind that team was Matt. He really was the one who got us through all those overtime wins and all those long bus rides home and all those practices. Every step of the way, you could tell he cared as much about us and as much about the team as any other girl on the team. I think that we wouldn’t have got through those tough games without him and the coaching staff. The feeling for players like Kench and Thomson and Conroy that had been struggling for five years. For them, just beating Laurier was a milestone, but to experience something like this and graduate and retire as champions – and it wasn’t just them it was [Megan] McNutt and Hunt and [Shelby] Aitcheson and [Kerstin] van Bolderen.
I had started my time with the team as an assistant coach with the team when those players were rookies. So I had been there for the whole time with them as well. I had worked five years and in my fourth year, I still hadn’t heard back from Queen’s. I didn’t know if I’d be returning for a fifth year. I remember when we lost in our playoffs in my previous year, I sat there and felt like this can’t be my last game. I can’t believe I’m done now. I’m upset in the dressing room — you’re sitting there in tears. I remembered that moment the next year, thinking how devastating it was the year before when I was thinking I had played my last game. It couldn’t have ended the whole university experience in a better way. I think again there was this weird magical feeling that I never had before in all of my career. I had never had the feeling that I had with these girls. We’ll always have a special bond with one another. All of the girls on that team — I still talk to many of them today and we still share the incredible experiences that we had. For me, the most rewarding thing was seeing the look on their faces and just how happy they were.
The Gaels hosted game two of the OUA Finals on March 4, with puck drop at 8:34 p.m.

60 MINUTES AWAY

Once again, the Gaels found themselves on the losing end to start the game. 42 seconds into the second period, Queen’s allowed a second goal — the first time they had let in more than one goal since January 22.
Morgan McHaffie notched a goal with 7:34 left in the third period, tying the game at 2-2 and setting up another overtime clash — one with an unlikely hero.
With so many upper-year players, the win took on a greater meaning. Every series had been a must-win to get the Gaels to the CIS championships, but also represented the potential final time several members of the squad would wear the Queen’s uniform.
After dispatching Guelph, the women’s hockey team travelled to Waterloo for the CIS women’s hockey championships hosted by the same Laurier team they had knocked out of the post-season two weeks prior. In their first game, the Gaels played their sixth consecutive overtime contest, topping the Alberta Pandas 2-1 in a shootout. A loss to the McGill Martlets in their next game set the scene for a rematch with the Golden Hawks for a CIS bronze medal. Queen’s would prevail 1-0, capturing the program’s first-ever CIS medal. The Gaels entered the 2011-12 campaign as defending OUA champions, though the team was depleted by the graduation of several core players — names like Kench and Conroy, Hunt and Thomson. In a rebuilding year, Queen’s would bow out of the post-season in the first round. The wait for another provincial title wouldn’t last long, as the 2013 squad won the Gaels’ second championship in three years. Nine members of the roster were holdovers from the previous title run: Mel Dodd-Moher, Katie Duncan, Shawna Griffin, Engi Lim, Karissa Savage, Brittany and Morgan McHaffie, and Kristin and Alana Smith. None of the Gaels’ seven playoff games would require overtime. On Feb, 21, 2015, Shawna Griffin became the last member of the 2011 roster to hang up her Queen’s sweater for the final time. Although the roster has completely turned over, some things haven’t changed. Matt Holmberg still remains at the helm of the women’s hockey team, while Morgan McHaffie now serves as one of his assistant coaches. The Gaels remain one of the top programs in the OUA. It’s a much different landscape in the OUA now, with different teams vying for the title. Even the players who were rookies in 2011 have now graduated and left their programs. The puck Morgan McHaffie deposited behind Danielle Skoufranis on March 2, 2011, is now in the Hockey Hall of Fame, as is the stick that shot it. History will note which team won the game that night, but it will not mention the bonds between teammates, between coach and player, or the 18 university students linked by a single common goal.
Writing: Sean Sutherland Production: Kayla Thomson
Photos: Jeff Chan, Stephanie Nijhuis, 
Journal File Photos
Graphics: Ashley Quan
Editing: Anastasiya Boika, Vishmayaa Jeyamoorthy, Sebastian Leck, Anisa Rawhani RETURN TO QJLONGFORM.COM