Western Singing Shootout Blues After Controversy
Western Mustangs Women's HockeyEva Nagel
After pasting the Ryerson Rams 3-0 on Saturday afternoon, the Western Mustangs of women’s hockey took on another team from the 6 in the form of the Toronto Varsity Blues yesterday. Unlike the former game however, this contest ended in close, very controversial fashion. The Mustangs had clawed their way back from a 2-0 deficit to tie the game 5 minutes into the third period, made a clutch penalty kill late in overtime, setting up the shootout round to decide the winner. With Western’s Rachel Armstrong and Toronto’s Louie Bieman tallying goals, up stepped Sydnee Baker. The 3rd year transfer from UPEI swooped in on Blues’ goalie Erica Fryer, firing a low shot. The puck caromed off the post into Fryer, from where it dropped behind the goal line. This all occurred in a matter of seconds. Everyone in the arena was sure Bake had scored . . . except the referee. The moment the puck hit the post, the official waved his arms to signal no goal. Baker, understandably incredulous, pleaded her case to no avail. The purple and white’s captain, Evra Levesque, followed by one of her assistants, OUA goal leader April Clark, came onto the ice to join the discussion. Soon after, the ref again signalled no goal, affirming his original decision. After the game was over, Coach Candice Moxley told Radio Western that the official told her “once the puck hit the post, the play is dead.” This baffling call effectively drained the remaining reserve the Mustangs had left. Toronto’s Cristine Ciao, who had scored the opening goal back in the first period, tucked her shootout attempt behind netminder Carmen Lasis to give the Blues the lead. The aforementioned Clark, needing to tally to keep Western in the game, couldn’t get the puck past Fryer, giving Toronto the 3-2 victory.
Quite frankly, this was a terrible way for the contest to conclude, as it was an exciting, full throttle game of hockey up until the shootout’s bizarre officiating. Both goalies played superb through 60 minutes. Lasis kept Western alive despite falling behind 2-0 with multiple defensive lapses in the first 30 minutes, only allowing 2 goals on 27 shots. Her Blues’ counterpart kept the Mustangs from gaining a lead in their comeback attempt, making 14 saves on 16 shots. April Clark deked and dangled all over the ice making her presence felt, most importantly when she notched the 2-1 goal in the second frame. Both sides played an intense physical style, with jaw jousting and scrappiness after many a whistle in the third and overtime periods. Western’s Shana Alexander knotted her second goal of the season to tie the game after Anthea Lais blasted a perfect ricochet off the backboards to land on the former’s stick in front of the crease. Toronto’s defense played superb, keeping Western’s speedsters relatively contained, and contributing to a very productive offensive zone cycle, led by Cristine Ciao at the point. Taking all four periods into account, the game was even across the board. It made sense it came down to a shootout, all the blood, sweat, and tears coming down to this one-on-one affair, shooter vs goalie. But the way it ended, on a refs’ baffling decision, was a letdown for everyone involved.
Western has five days to bounce back from the 1-1 weekend split before hosting another dual afternoon home series. On Saturday January 12, the Mustangs take on the Laurentian Voyageurs at Thompson Arena. The following day, the purple & white play their final home game until February, against the Nipissing Lakers.
The Varsity Blues travel back to Toronto on the high of a two-game winning streak, getting back to the ice Thursday night against UOIT. In a Saturday afternoon affair they host the Queen’s Gaels in the second of five straight home contests.