Forward from St. Marys led Western in scoring this season
By Pat Payton
LONDON – Western Mustangs’ coach Kelly Paton admitted that there was “a sting” to Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 loss to the Manitoba Bisons.
But Paton was quick to add that she was “very proud” of her team who earned silver medals at the 2018 Canadian university women’s hockey championship here at Thompson Arena.
A key player on the Mustangs team all season was hard-working forward April Clark, a St. Marys native who led Western in scoring.
Mustangs took a 13-game winning streak into Sunday’s championship game. Manitoba was ranked No. 1 and Western No. 3 going into the eight-team national championship.
“We said at the start of the year that if you win your last game that you’re going to be the national champions,” Paton told the Independent outside a very quiet Mustangs’ dressing room. “But we’re really proud of how the girls grew as a group and as a team.
“I don’t think anyone can take anything away from us. It obviously stings right now, but in the big picture we made to a national final.”
Paton hinted that she wasn’t pleased with some of the officials’ calls.
“Unfortunately, the discretion of the calls weren’t in our favour,” she said. “It kind of took our momentum away at times. But Manitoba played well and capitalized on their opportunities–including one on a powerplay. They did enough and scored more goals than we did.”
Great atmosphere at Western
Sunday’s gold-medal game attracted a full house at Thompson Arena, with the crowd estimated at over 1,600 fans, many wearing purple in support of the Mustangs. The school band also added to a great atmosphere.
Western set the pace in the first period, aggressively forechecking and taking the play to the poised Bisons. The first great scoring chance by Western was set up by Clark. At the other end, Mustangs’ goalie Carmen Lasis made a big stop late in the period to keep the score deadlocked 0-0.
Manitoba scored what proved to be the winner on a powerplay at the 18:16 mark of the second period. After Clark was denied from point-blank range early in the third, Bisons added an insurance goal at the 5:10 mark.
Western had a couple of great chances on two ensuing powerplays, but couldn’t get a puck past Bisons’ netminder Lauren Taraschuck. As one of Mustangs’ top offensive threats, coach Paton played Clark every other shift in the final period. The desperate Mustangs did everything they could to score, but the Manitoba defence was just too good on this day.
“We really stuck to our game plan today,” Bisons’ coach Jon Rempel said. “We were strong defensively, played at a high-tempo pace and tried to play a puck-possession game. That’s really been the signature of how we’ve played all season. We managed the puck very well today.
“We’ve grinded so hard and so long for the last six or seven months, I’m just so happy for my players. Offence wins games, but defence wins championships,” he added with a laugh.
Coach Paton said Western’s game plan going into the gold-medal game was the same as any other game.
“We tried to play our game, and find some tendencies on the other team,” she explained. “We were close, but not quite close enough. But again, we’re really proud of our group and what we accomplished this year.”
Defeat Montreal, Saskatchewan
Western opened the eight-team tournament with a 4-0 victory over Montreal Carabins in last Thursday night’s quarter-finals. Mustangs broke it open with three second-period goals, and got a 41-save performance from freshmen goalie Carmen Lasis.
In the semi-finals Saturday afternoon, two second-period powerplay goals lifted Western to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Saskatchewan Huskies.
April Clark tied the score 1-1 at the 5:06 mark, and teammate Alyssa Chiarello fired the winner just over five minutes later.
Goaltender Lasis kicked out 24 of 25 shots, and Clark was named player-of-the-game for the Mustangs. The win gave Western a berth in the gold-medal game Sunday afternoon.
–Following Sunday’s game, Manitoba was presented with the Golden Path Women’s Hockey Trophy. It’s their first national title for the women Bisons. Mustangs hoisted the same trophy at the nationals in Calgary in the spring of 2015.
–The Western women’s hockey team lost only three games on the road this season.
–In their final 22 games, including league, McCaw Cup playoffs and the Canadian championships at Western, Mustangs posted an impressive record of 19-3.
–April Clark, a DCVI graduate and the daughter of Stan and Darlene, of St. Marys, is studying Kinesiology at Western.
–St. Marys area resident Bridgid Goris played for Queen’s Gaels at the Canadians in London. She is a Stratford St. Mikes graduate. Queen’s lost 4-0 to Manitoba and 4-3 in overtime to St. Francis Xavier from Nova Scotia.
‘Stangs win OUA title in Kingston
KINGSTON – April Clark, of St. Marys, earned two assists for Western in a 3-0 victory over Queen’s Gaels here on Saturday, Mar. 10 at Memorial Centre Arena in Kingston, giving Mustangs their second-ever McCaw Cup championship.
The other time the Western women’s hockey team won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) title was in 2015.
Queen’s had the third-best offence in the province, but the ‘Stangs shut them down in their own rink. “Our girls did a really good job of bringing a lot of positive energy leading up to the game,” Mustangs’ coach Kelly Paton said in the Gazette, Western’s student newspaper.
The road win capped off a great late-season run for the Mustangs’ women’s squad. They went 17-2 in their last 19 league games, winning six consecutive games to finish their OUA regular schedule and then five in a row to capture the McCaw Cup. Western swept both Toronto Blues 2-0 and Guelph Gryphons 2-0, before meeting first-place Queen’s in the one-game showdown for the McCaw Cup.
Following the OUA final in Kingston, Clark was named an OUA second-team all-star for 2017-18.
The 20-year-old Clark, a third-year forward, led Mustangs in scoring during the season with 12 goals and 22 points in 24 games. She finished tied for seventh in the OUA scoring race, and her four powerplay goals were second-best in the province in that category.