(WINDSOR, ON) – The Southwest Wildcats junior women’s hockey club spent the final weekend of September on the edge of a great precipice. With three games on their schedule, the Wildcats looked like they could add to the win column in every match, but were somehow eluded.
“I am really happy with how we are competing,” said coach Jennifer Hitchcock. “We are playing great hockey, just not getting the bounces around the net. We lost two, one-goal games this weekend. [The losses are] tough, but our team continued to battle and came up with a tie against London, which is an important point for us down the stretch.”
On September 22, Southwest took to the road to challenge one of their key territorial rivals, the Bluewater Hawks. Playing at the Gemini Sportsplex, just outside of Strathroy, the two opponents found themselves on fairly balanced footing.
Ending a scoreless back-and-forth period, co-captains Savannah Bouzide and Ellen Donaldson teamed up for a buzzer-beater to take a 1-0 lead into the break.
Penalty trouble struck in the middle frame, though, as a string of three man-down situations for the Wildcats wore down their defensive core until Bluewater’s Bridgid Goris popped in a goal to knot the game.
In the third, Jessica Forcey gave the Hawks the lead with under eight minutes to go, but she was answered less than a minute later by Southwest’s Avery Mertz. However, only a few plays later, Hannah Finlayson retook the Bluewater lead to win the game 3-2.
Avery’s goal was assisted by Bouzide and Donaldson.
Kristen Swiatoschik was valiant in net, blocking 39 shots for Southwest. At the other end, Kaitlyn Chagnon stopped 25 of 27 for the win.
Two afternoons later, the Wildcats hosted the Durham West Jr Lightning. Emily O’Bright was, as per usual, as solid as a brick in net, giving her team a chance to win.
The two teams were scoreless through the opening pair of periods, with the Lightning leading 14-12 in shots going into the third.
There was a lengthy delay during the first 20 minutes when a puck, trapped a heater hanging from Forest Glade Arena’s roof, happened to catch fire. After a brief visit from Windsor’s bravest, the game continued.
Durham West got a leg up early in the third, as Charlea Pederson broke the deadlock after a flurry of action in the Wildcats’ zone. Pederson was able to rip a puck through a gaggle of bodies in front and the Lightning took the lead.
Despite a trifecta of Wildcat power plays, Durham West kept their opponent under their collective thumb for most of the period. In the final minutes, Hitchcock pulled O’Bright for an extra attacker to put together some opportunities. It was not enough as the Lightning snuck out with a 1-0 victory.
O’Bright was good for 25 stops, while Durham West’s Danika Ranger scored the 19-save shutout.
The next day, Southwest was back at it again, hosting another territorial rival, the London Devilettes. Right from the puck drop, the Wildcats went to work.
Bouzide bent the visitor’s twine only 28 seconds into the action, with an assist going to Donaldson. In the second, Gioia DiCiocco netted her first Wildcat goal, with helpers going to Shannon Fehr and Jessica Jeffery.
Only minutes later, however, London made it onto the scoresheet with a blast from Julia Gosling.
In the final stanza, the Devilettes started piling on scoring chances, laying siege to Swiatoschik and the Southwest defense. With a little more than two minutes remaining, the Wildcat blockade broke and London’s Maggie McKee sent the game into overtime.
The extra frame solved nothing and each team added a point to their season totals.
Swiatoschik turned away 32 London attempts, while Erica Fryer faced 22 shots at the other end.
“We are playing good hockey, everyone is working hard and competing at a high level,” said Hitchcock. “The bounces and goals will come.”
The Wildcats return to action on October 7, heading up Highway 401 to London for the rubber match. Their next home action will be October 15 at 4:30pm, when they battle the defending Alumni Cup champion Toronto Aeros.
The next day the Wildcats will square off with another formidable foe, the Mississauga Jr Chiefs, with the puck drop at 1:00pm at Forest Glade Arena.