By Ankur Kumar
(WINDSOR, ON) – As the first half of the 2014-15 season has concluded, the Lancers have surprised the critics with their current finish in the OUA. The Lancers are situated in third place behind the Western Mustangs and the Queen’s Gaels.
Their 21 points out of a possible 28 has confirmed they have won 75% of the competitions. The Lancers are just one point behind the Gaels for second place, but they still have a way’s to go to catch up to the conference-leading Mustangs.
After Rachel Chantler was sent off for a tripping penalty on Saturday afternoon against the Gaels, Taryn Pilon capitalized on the power play with her eighth goal of the season.
“We got into penalty trouble in the first, and to fall behind like that on the road, it puts you up on the wall,” explained head coach Jim Hunter.
The Lancers redeemed their first 20 minutes of the game in the last period of regulation.
Krystin Lawrence scored nearly six minutes into the third and then came through in clutch fashion to tie the game with 17.8 seconds left on the clock.
The Gaels protected the win with Fiona Lester’s shootout goal but, nonetheless, the team returned in strong fashion against the fledgling UOIT Ridgebacks, handing them their sixth consecutive loss heading into the break.
“We’ve been playing great and more consistent compared to previous years,” explained senior forward Candace Kourounis. “We have a lot of depth this year. We’re scoring a lot.”
Kourounis collected her third goal in the last four games against the Ridgebacks; her fifth point overall during that time span, displaying a revitalized performance.
“As long as we get on the scoreboard, it doesn’t matter who gets them,” she said. “I didn’t have a good season last year, but this year feels good personally.”
Hunter is certainly impressed by the turnaround.
“She (Kourounis) is having a good year. She’s having fun and working hard,” he said. “There’s a consistent game from her every night and that’s ‘cause of the work ethic.”
“Hopefully when we go into the second half we can keep playing like this,” said Kourounis.
Shailyn Waites’ fifth goal of the year was the game winner. It was the first time she found a goal since the impressive hat trick she posted against the York Lions on November 7. Coincidentally, it was the game where she collected the game-winning goal as well.
The first half has certainly been highlighted by the supply of points from first-year members Waites and Lawrence.
“They have been a big part of our success,” Hunter continued. “We’re going to need them to continue that with (Jenny) MacKnight and (Bree) Polci gone for six games. We’d like to make sure we do as much as we can to keep things going the way they have.”
Senior members Jenny MacKnight and Bree Polci will be absent for six of the remaining 10 games on the Lancers schedule next semester because of their selection to Canada’s hockey team at the 2015 Universiade, in Spain. The duo of wingers will be in Granada alongside the other top talent in the CIS, trading in their blue and gold for the red and white to represent Canada in women’s hockey.
The Lancers have played nine of their 14 games this season on the road. To have achieved these numbers and finish in third is not facile. It certainly has been the best achievement during Jim Hunter’s tenure as bench boss. He has also made it clear that the Lancers are inching towards the bigger picture as ten games are left to play in the latter half of the 2014-15 campaign.
“Our goal, in the second half, is to get which ever wins we need to finish in the top four,” said Hunter.
The Lancers are content, but not proud, because they know just how much greater things can become.
It feels like a lengthy wait, but patience is virtuous for a group of women who have already proven this season is a lot different than what has previously been experienced.