– Kyle Morrison, staff
In what is seemingly a season filled with win after win, one loss is all it takes, and Laurier’s women’s hockey team knows this sentiment all too well.
For the second time in three years, the Golden Hawks’ women have gone undefeated in the regular season, but they’ve got nothing to show for it.
You have to go all the way back to 2004-05 to find their last successful playoff run en route to being crowned national champions.
In 2011-2012, they had little trouble reaching the CIS national women’s hockey tournament, but things changed in a hurry. With a surprise loss to the sixth-seeded Montreal Carabins 6-5, the Laurier girls weren’t looking like a team ready to win it all.
As the top seed in Canada, Laurier needed to set the tone early and show that they are provincial champions for a reason. They didn’t.
And even after a 3-0 win against the University of P.E.I. in game two of the tournament, it wasn’t enough. Because of the first game loss, Laurier needed to rely on the other teams to lose so they could play for gold, and that’s not how a good team works. You need to win to get to the top like they had done all season.
Ultimately, things did not work out in the Golden Hawks’ favour, as they not only ended up having to play for bronze, but they once again were unable to bring home a medal.
In a very poor performance, Laurier couldn’t even muster a goal against McGill, losing 4-0. It’s not the game they wanted to play for, still, the team needed to play like it was a championship game, but it doesn’t seem like the team showed up to play at all.
Time and time again the women’s hockey team has lost to inferior teams when it counts, so one might ask, do their outstanding regular season records mean anything? It is something the women’s hockey program and the university should be proud of, but at the end of the day, that’s not what the fans want.
A prime example of this in the professional sports world is the 2008 New England Patriots in the National Football League. After dominating opponents with their record-setting offensive attack, they finished the regular season undefeated at 16-0. And as expected, they reached the Super Bowl in what was considered to be a landslide victory against a team that showed they were very inferior during the regular season, in which they even lost to the Patriots.
But as many want to forget – and even more love to remember – the Patriots lost. Even though they their record is unprecedented in such a difficult sport and showed that they were one of the greatest teams ever, their total season record was still 18-1 and not 19-0, almost making the Patriots an afterthought in the NFL record books.
This is a bit of an unfair comparison, but that is sports. Sports are the purest form of competition and after the Golden Hawks were on top of the mountain for 30-plus games, they had the opportunity to either stay on top or lose and fall off completely.
When a team is so great, how does any of this even happen? How are the true champions and the pretenders separated? First and foremost is the pressure of winning it all. With each passing season, racking up win after win, the team knows just as well as the fans do, that they need to win it all. A forward may start squeezing her stick a bit more tightly, maybe not making that pass from tape-to-tape like they used to because of the fear of messing it up and losing the game. Or on the other hand, the team may have the lead like they are used to and begin to play casually because they’ve barely played from behind before. Then there are the fluke underdog moments in sports, as seen in the movies, where the little guys go against all odds, defy what all the naysayers think and take down Goliath. They take that perfect shot with seconds to go and the crowd goes crazy as they win the game! It’s a miracle!
But let’s get real here; I can’t imagine an opposing university pulling a “Miracle on Ice” against the Golden Hawks, at the very least not multiple times in the seven seasons in a row of 20+ wins since they last won it all.
So, what is the problem then? It’s hard to say. Whatever it is, with the extremely high level of performance the team achieves, it should have been fixed by now. Maybe they should try winning less during the regular season, so they can pull out the wins they need later. Too bad that’s not how it works. It comes down to playing hard and playing with a short-term memory. Nothing really matters if you’re not winning the game at hand.
Although Laurier can be proud of creating a women’s hockey program that has been a dominating force for nearly a decade, where’s the trophy to back it up? Sports – especially when you have been a national powerhouse for nearly a decade – always beg the question “what have you done for me lately?” And the women’s hockey team sure hasn’t done much.