By Mitchell Fox
The final buzzer signalled much more than the end of a game for the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold women’s hockey team on Saturday afternoon, as they saw their season come to an end in emotional fashion.
The squad gave the second-ranked team in the country all they could ask for, falling 4-2 to the University of Toronto (U of T) Varsity Blues and losing their first-round Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs series 2-0.
Bold head coach Lisa Haley said she was proud of her team and that they played their best hockey when they needed to.
“I know we were out in two straight, but I think anybody watching either one of those games would have felt like it would have been hard to tell who was ranked second in the country,” she said.
After losing Thursday off a goal with 15 seconds left in the game, the Bold kept it close to the bitter end once again. The Varsity Blues scored with just over four minutes to go before adding an empty-netter.
Fifth-year forward Brooklyn Gemmill said the team “gave everything they had,” and it showed.
“They’re number one or number two in the country for a reason,” Gemmill said, “We had them on the ropes there, so it’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Though the Varsity Blues took control in the first period with a relentless forecheck and efficient puck movement, propelling them to a 2-1 lead. In the second, the Bold fought back, matching their opponent’s tenacity.
Halfway through the middle frame, Toronto’s Madelyn Walsh went down with an injury after taking a hit from Bold captain Madison Lalonde. The Varsity Blues forward was able to skate off the ice and later returned to the game, while Lalonde was assessed a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct.
Haley said Lalonde is a “tremendous captain” who was upset not to be able to play with her teammates down the stretch, but she “couldn’t be more proud” of what the fifth-year forward has accomplished.
“What Maddie has done over the course of her six years here is a hell of a lot more than not being able to play the last 20 minutes,” she said.
In the face of Lalonde’s penalty and a subsequent 4-on-3 powerplay for the Varsity Blues, the Bold turned the game in their favour with strong penalty killing. The squad kept the dynamic Varsity Blues away from the middle of the ice, while Lauren Griffin did her job in the goal crease.
In poetic fashion, with 15 seconds left in the period, Gemmill, who had just hopped out of the penalty box after serving Lalonde’s penalty, tied the game at 2-2. Gemmill’s shot from the blue line caught Varsity Blues goaltender Madeline Albert off guard, sailing into the top corner of the net.
Gemmill said she was emotional but happy to score in her last game as a member of the Bold.
“The second half of the season was tough,” said Gemmill. “I knew the ending was near and I’m glad I could do something out there. I gave everything that I had out there and I’m comfortable leaving on that note.”
The Bold continued to push the Varsity Blues in the third period, but it was the one power-play goal Toronto did score that made the difference in the game.
Haley said the team would have liked just one more kill, as it was tough to see the game come down to a couple of deflections that Griffin had little chance of saving. She added that the team can be happy knowing they did everything in their control to win both games in the series, but they could not get on “the right side of the bounce.”
“I’m gonna ask the facility guys to put a couple more coats of paint on the goalposts so it goes post-and-in instead of post-and-out,” she joked. “I think we were that close.”
The game was the first time this season the Bold scored multiple goals against the Varsity Blues. Haley said the game was memorable, even if it could have been different with a more favourable result, as the team laid its heart and soul on the table.
“The sad part of it is that that’s the last time this group is going to be together,” she said. “The toughest part about the last game is you never know that it’s going to be your last game. I mean, you know it’s a possibility, but you just don’t even think that it will be.”
For seven members of the Bold, including Lalonde and Gemmill, it was their last game in the TMU colours. Haley fought back tears speaking about the departing seniors, complimenting their play and contributions to the program.
“Before they walked through the door, our program didn’t even know what it meant to make playoffs,” she said. “And here we are. Every season they’ve been with us we’ve been in the playoffs.”
Haley said she is going to “decompress a bit” and watch the other TMU Bold teams as they take on the OUA playoffs.
“I get to be a superfan for the next little bit,” said Haley. “Somebody offered me Gatorade, I think, or Biosteel. I think I’ll go for something stronger, for sure.”