For the second straight year, the Laurentian Voyageurs women's hockey team would force a third and deciding game in their first round playoff series. And for a second straight year, they would come up just a little short in game three.
A 2-1 loss Sunday in North Bay at the hands of the Nipissing Lakers marked the end of yet another solid post-season showing for coach Stacey Colarossi and company, pushing the OUA second place finishers to the limit.
The Voyageurs were a slow out of the gate in the opener, spotting Nipissing a 3-0 lead a week ago Wednesday, as Jade Gauthier and Brooklyn Irwin scored in the second period, and Laura McKenzie increased the advantage just 13 seconds into period three.
With the Lakers encountering some penalty problems, mid-period, Laurentian opted to pull goaltender Karen Collins, creating a six on four which would see Sara Habal break the ice for L.U., on the power play.
Just 22 seconds later, Emma Leger reduced the margin to a single goal. With five minutes or so to play, Colarossi opted to roll the dice one more time, summoning Collins to the bench, a strategy that backfired on this occasion, as Nipissing closed out a 5-2 win with empty-net markers from Taylor Murphy (15:12) and Jetta Derenoski (17:51).
Back to Sudbury for game two on Saturday, where the Voyageurs were anything but slow out of the gate, opening the scoring just 34 seconds in thanks to Morgan McCann. Taylor Weber made it 2-0 in the second, but the Lakers countered, deadlocking the contest after 40 minutes thanks to tallies from Janica Vossos and Irwin.
One of the year's prettiest goals restored the Laurentian lead, as Kennedy Lanktree streaked in off the right wing and drilled a top corner shot, short-side, over the shoulder of Jacqueline Rochefort at 2:58 of the third.
McCann netted her second some five minutes later, before Bronwyn Bolduc made things interesting, pulling the visitors to within one with 2:48 still to play. In the end, Laurentian would hold on for the 4-3 triumph.
In a series that seemed to carry very little momentum over from one game to the next, it would be Nipissing breaking the ice in the do or die matchup, as Gauthier solved Collins at virtually the mid-point of the opening frame.
Gauthier added her third of the series, at 6:34 of the middle stanza, allowing coach Darren Turcotte and company to maintain a 2-0 lead with but twenty minutes to play. But as they had so often this year, the Voyageurs caught fire in the third, with Jessica Staats hitting the mark at 13:33.
Unfortunately, that was as close as Laurentian would get, with Nipissing moving on to round two, courtesy of a 2-1 win. The Voyageurs outshot the Lakers 26-23 in the contest, and 103-69 over the course of the three game set.
The Lakers will face the University of Toronto Blues in one semi-final series (Nipissing doubled U of T 4-2 in game one last night), while the remaining semi-final pits Sudbury sniper Karli Shell and the Guelph Gryphons against the Waterloo Warriors.
Shell would score the opening goal of that series, last night as well, as the Gryphons downed the Warriors 3-1 in Guelph. Following the OUA championships, eight CIS women's teams will convene in Kingston and Napanee, site of the 2017 U Sports tournament from March 16th to the 19th.
The event is being hosted by the Queen's Gaels, allowing local product Stephanie Pascal to hit the ice at least one more time with the host team this year. The Gaels were also eliminated in game three, as Meagan O'Brien scored at 14:50 of the second overtime period, lifting Toronto to a 2-1 win, and spoiling a 46-save performance for Pascal.