Playing their strongest and giving the best teams in the country a serious challenge is what the STU women’s hockey team is going to take away from their first shot at nationals.
St. Thomas hosted the CIS women’s hockey championship at the Grant Harvey this weekend, giving the school an opportunity to showcase its talent to the top hockey teams in Canada. The Tommies played against Universite de Montreal and University of Saskatchewan, who were seeded first and fourth, respectively. And although they lost both games, the Tommies battled hard and played their best games of the season.
Tommies head coach Peter Murphy believes they gave their opponents more trouble than they were expecting. He knows how important that is in the long run.
“We gained a lot of respect I think and not just in our conference, I think across the country,” he said. “A lot of the AUS coaches I talked to felt we represented the conference really well, especially as hosts. You go in with that tag that you kind of bought your way here but we definitely didn’t want that to be the case. We wanted to people think that when we were done playing, people would say they competed and they belonged here.”
The Tommies lost 3-2 to Saskatchewan in their opening game, but stuck with the Huskies for most of the game. Even when they were down 3-1, the team pushed back and scored with 15 seconds left. And the 1,500 fans in attendance created a great atmosphere that stuck with the team.
Graduating players Kristin Wolfe and Katie Brewster thought the crowd helped STU tap into their energy.
“The crowd was amazing … the cheering, the enthusiasm, everything,” said Wolfe. “It was electric. It definitely motivated the team more. We were loving it.”
Brewster said the fifth years in particular were battling hard to make sure their effort counted.
“It does make you want to play even that much harder, going out there until you can’t breathe anymore. You want to leave it all on the ice and you really do want to empty the tank and play every shift like it’s your last,” she said.
The team got pumped up before their games with inspirational speeches from Murphy. He said his speech before their game against Montreal caused more than a few tears to be shed.
STU played Universite de Moncton for fifth place on Sunday morning, but fell 2-1. Murphy said that game was just as important as the rest.
“Anytime you put the T on, you play to win.”
The team went into the tournament seeded last and finished in the same spot. But knowing what the competition is like across the country was valuable for the Tommies.
Wolfe thinks the most important thing to come out of nationals is showing how the Tommies are ready to take on any challenge.
“We can keep up with them. We were right in it, every second, every play. We turned a lot of heads and proved to a lot of people that we deserve to be in this tournament.”
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