By Mitchell Fox
The TMU Bold women’s hockey team took advantage of a strong start as they defeated the University of Toronto (U of T) Varsity Blues 3-2 in a pre-season game on Saturday afternoon at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
TMU forward Emily Baxter was the star of the show for the Bold, scoring twice in the first period and setting the tone for a close game.
“We’ll take the victory, especially over a team like U of T,” said head coach Lisa Haley. “They’re notoriously one of the stronger teams in our conference.”
Baxter opened the scoring just over a minute in, electing to shoot on a two-on-one and rifling a wrist shot under the arm of Blues goalie Erica Fryer.
Haley said scoring early was important for giving the team some momentum.
“Every time we can jump out to that early lead, we will take it, for sure,” she said.
Baxter scored again with just over a minute left in the first, flipping her own rebound over the outstretched pad of Fryer.
Haley said she is “really proud” of the growth Baxter has shown since joining the team before the pandemic.
“All the hard work is starting to pay off,” said Haley. “Hopefully that’s a sign of even more to come for her this year.”
Despite a 2-0 Bold lead after one period of play, the Varsity Blues found momentum in the second period, using three TMU penalties to their advantage and trapping the home side in their own zone on a few occasions. Bold goaltender Jayden Lawson stood tall in the crease, stopping all 11 shots the Varsity Blues sent toward the net.
The third period didn’t start as the Bold would have hoped, with the Blues taking charge through tenacious forechecking and smooth puck movement.
Still, fortune favoured the Bold. Fourth-year forward Erika Crouse took advantage of an opportunity in front of the net, adding the eventual game-winning goal.
Haley said converting on scoring opportunities, as Crouse and Baxter did, proved valuable.
“I think we needed all three of them to be able to square it up,” said Haley. “I thought we had a decent start, but they were definitely the better team and had a pretty good push at the end.”
The Varsity Blues came roaring back on the heels of goals from Lauren MacDonnell and Francesca Monte. Monte’s goal was a stunner, as she blasted a slapshot off the bar and down with eight minutes to go.
TMU was outshot 31-22 in the contest. Haley said the squad hopes to avoid giving up 30-plus shots in games, but Lawson’s confident and strong play to start was encouraging.
“She was huge in us being able to close out that game and get the ‘W,’” said Haley.
With three more pre-season games to go, Haley said it’s too early to know what the team’s 20-player regular season lineup will look like.
“We’re using the pre-season to give everybody an opportunity to show what their value is and what their strengths are,” she said. “Hopefully they make the decisions for us by their performance.”
UP NEXT: The Bold continues their pre-season Wednesday as they take on the Guelph Gryphons at their home rink. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.