By Daniel Carrero
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold women’s hockey team extended their winning streak to three after defeating the York Lions 5-0 on Feb. 8 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
After winning back-to-back games against the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks, TMU came in with high spirits as they were on their longest win streak of the season with two wins. A loss against the Lions would’ve mathematically eliminated the Bold from playoff contention.
“It feels really rewarding,” said head coach Lisa Haley. “We’ve been playing well for a good stretch of the second half [of the season] and it’s nice to see a lopsided scoreboard for us.”
The home side are experiencing their best form of the year so far, which continued on Thursday. A hat-trick from the third-year TMU forward Payton Kerr led the squad to their largest win-margin of the season, keeping the Bold’s playoff hopes alive.
The Bold must win both of their remaining games to reach the playoffs while also relying on York and Ontario Tech to stay below 27 points in the standings.
“We know we are hanging by a thread,” said Haley. “We got to get really fortunate with help from other areas and teams.”
The game started with an early pressure from York, but when two York players crashed into one of the referees it cleared the right-hand side of the rink for second-year forward Gaby Gareau.
The Ottawa product found herself in front of second-year Lions goalie Emma Wedgewood and sniped it into the top right corner of the net just six minutes into the opening frame.
While York tried to correct their defensive mistakes for the rest of the period, it was no use against the Bold’s tight-checking neutral-zone defence.
“[Our] instruction was to keep them to the outside, don’t get a lot of shots through and gap up,” said fifth-year Bold defender Tori Butler. “[York] have a tough forecheck where they leave the middle open, instead of roaming around looking for the middle to get out [of our zone].”
Midway through the second period, a Butler shot from the point on the powerplay was deflected by Kerr to double the lead. Six minutes later, Kerr poked home her second of the night past Wedgewood to make it 3-0 for the Bold.
York continued to struggle with penalties as with three minutes remaining in the second period, second-year defender Jillian Milligan was ejected from the game for checking from behind.
Second-year TMU goalie Alexia Stratos held down the fort for the home side as the Lions looked to break through. The Lions held a 19-15 shot advantage through two periods, yet couldn’t find the twine.
“It was a little bit of a knockdown not playing [this season] until two games ago,” said Stratos. “But I worked really hard over the Christmas break and I think it paid off.”
With two games remaining, Haley will have to decide which goaltender to start in their push to qualify for the playoffs.
“The challenge is who wants the net? Somebody has to step up and take the net, play well enough that we have no choice but to play you again,” said Haley. “At the moment Stratos has found the hot hand…so far she has stolen the net.”
Midway through the third period, fourth-year forward Emily Baxter scored off an odd angle as she bounced the puck into Wedgwood’s helmet into the net during a powerplay. It was her 13th goal of the season where she sits in a three-way tie as the second-top goalscorer of the Ontario University Athletics.
Over two minutes later, Kerr buried the loose puck near Wedgewood’s goal to complete the hat-trick and put a bow on the Bold’s night.
“I don’t really keep track of that stuff,” said Kerr on tracking her statistics. “I think last weekend, two of our goals were off someone’s butt, so I just go in the net being greedy and dirty to try to put the puck in between the post.”
For the players, the pressure is on and the following games will determine their position in the standings.
“As [Ted] Lasso says, ‘have a goldfish memory’ and get ready for tomorrow,” said Haley.
UP NEXT: The Bold will play their last home game of the season at Senior Night against the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks at the MAC on Feb. 9. Puck-drop is set for 6 p.m.