“"It was a great hockey game. I’m really proud of how the team battled, you know, there was such great energy both on the bench and in the stands."— Matt Holmberg
Story - Friday, March 17, 2017
It was a packed and rowdy Thursday night at the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee, as the eighth-seed Queen’s women’s hockey team looked to open their U Sports Championship campaign on a winning note against the first-seed UBC Thunderbirds. The Gaels were unable to complete the upset in a game that came down to the final moments, as UBC topped the hosts by a score of 2-1.Backed by an incredibly strong goaltending performance by the always-steady Stephanie Pascal, the Gaels were able to hold off UBC in a one-sided first period. At the end of the first, the Gaels trailed 1-0 and were outshot 13-5 with the small deficit largely due to Pascal’s puck-stopping prowess.
In the second, Queen’s ramped up the energy, spurring the home crowd into a frenzy. With tensions running high and heating up, the crowd fed off the physicality of the game.
In turn, the Gaels internalized the excitement and with just over 10 minutes remaining in the frame, Megan Farrell dished a pass from behind UBC’s net to Kaylie Dennis who was able to bang the puck in past the sprawling UBC goaltender. The score remained at 1-1 through the end of the period, though both teams had chances that would have drastically changed the outcome of the game. Stephanie Pascal maintained her exceptional play, making sprawling saves that often seemed to defy the laws of biomechanics.
The third period saw numerous power play chances for both sides, however the final blood was drawn at even strength with just two minutes and 13 seconds left in the period. In a sequence where UBC dominated the Gaels with strong puck cycling, a UBC player was able to tip-toe up to the front of Queen’s net and flick the puck into the top corner above Pascal’s glove.
With the arena silenced, Queen’s pushed on and had a small handful of opportunities to tie the game that bore no fruit. After the final horn and traditional handshake line, Pascal was named Queen’s player of the game.
Following the game, head coach Matt Holmberg remained in a positive headspace. “It was a great hockey game. I’m really proud of how the team battled, you know, there was such great energy both on the bench and in the stands … I’m so proud of the way they played and battled and I know that their chins are low because they’re dejected, but they can hold their heads high,” said Holmberg, who led the Gaels through every inevitable high and low in a season of hockey. “I’m really proud of them.”
Holmberg also had high praise for Pascal, who often played the role of the shining star throughout the season. “She’s had a great season overall and we knew for us to have a chance today that she’d have to have a strong game and she did that. She kept us in there and I think it was well deserved of the player of the game,” Holmberg said.
The loss doesn’t mark the end of the season though, as the Gaels have the opportunity to play for fifth place in the consolation round. They’re set to play St. Francis Xavier on Friday night in the consolation semi-finals, with a chance to extend their season to Sunday.
“We get a chance to play on Sunday and not too many teams get the chance to say that they get to play hockey on the very last possible day, so we’re looking to be successful tomorrow night and build on this and hopefully play on Sunday,” said Holmberg.