(WINDSOR, ON) – Flying under the radar of most sports fans are the 2015 Winter University Games in Grenada, Spain. Canada is represented by the select university athletes from across the nation, and included in the prestigious group are two players from the University of Windsor women’s hockey team.
Fifth year forwards Jenny MacKnight and Bree Polci travelled last Sunday to meet up with the other women selected to play for the Red and White. Since arriving in Spain, the team has survived the qualifying rounds, and left the pool play en route to the gold medal game.
On February 4, Canada first faced Kazakhstan in the opening game, soundly defeating the former Soviet republic 7-1. Morgan McHaffie, of Queen’s University in Kingston, scored Canada’s first goal of the tournament at 2:44 of the 1st period. That was soon followed by Polci’s even strength goal, which stood up as the eventual winner. Polci would add a hooking penalty and an assist before game’s end.
Canada next met Russia in round-robin play, falling 3-1 at the paws of the Bear. The Russians were up 2-0 before Saint Mary’s University’s Breanna Lanceleve brought the Canadians within one. However, an empty net goal at 19:29 of the 3rd clinched it for Russia. It marked the first Unversiade hockey loss for Canada.
Despite the loss, the women advanced to the Semi-Finals and were drawn to play Japan. The Land of the Rising Sun reached the semis by defeating the host team 11-0 and then going on to beat the US 4-1 and then China 1-0. Although their play was remarkable, they couldn’t hold their own against Canada and were eliminated from the tournament by a 5-2 score.
Canada peppered Japanese goaltender Nana Fujimoto with 39 shots through the game. With the 1st period scoreless, Canada then built a 3-2 second period lead. MacKnight assisted the University of Saskatchewan’ Julia Flinton’s opening goal at the 7:37 mark. Two more markers in the 3rd pushed Canada into a rematch with Russia, who got past China 8-0.
MacKnight, Polci, and the rest of the Canadian squad will face-off against Russia tomorrow at 8:30 pm, local, 2:30 pm eastern.
Both Lancer women are performing well for the Canadians. Polci has 1 goal for 8 shots on net, thus far, and 2 penalty minutes. She’s also at +2 for the tournament. MacKnight, however, has just 2 shots on goal going into the gold medal game. It is unlike her usual play that earned her OUA honours as Player of the Year 2013-14.
MacKnight and Polci will both need to be at the top of their games in order for Canada to avenge the loss to Russia, in a replay of the gold medal game of 2013.