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Lions down Lakers to take game 1 in overtime

‘Our offense has been good all year and they know how to score. I’m confident that we will come back in our next game and take it to them in their barn’

As their quest begins for a third straight berth at the USports Nationals and their first-ever OUA championship the Nipissing Lakers found themselves hosting an opponent that has proven to be as tough as they come in OUA women's hockey.

The Lakers played host to the York Lions in their opening round, quarterfinal matchup on Wednesday evening. York was 2-2 against Nipissing in the 2023-24 regular season, including a 1-0 overtime win on Feb. 3 at Memorial Gardens, and the path to that elusive first championship will also be a tough task as the Lakers fell 1-0 in overtime in Game One.  

“It’s playoff hockey and you can’t take any shifts off. Every team is going to play to the end,” said Team Captain Allison Hayhurst. “Unfortunately they got the bounce and they got the goal.” 

The lone goal of the evening was scored at 14:12 of the overtime period, off a deflection by Sydney Paulson, who saw a Nicole York shot from the blue line come in towards her and she redirected it, to get it passed the outstretched pads of Lakers netminder Chantelle Sandquist. 

Sandquist and the rest of the defence were otherwise phenomenal as they stalled the Lions' attack for much of the game. The Lakers goaltender stopped 25 of 26 shots.  

“Sandy has been great all year and our defence was pretty solid today,” said Hayhurst. “Everybody was doing their job and shutting them down offensively and that’s a positive.”  

Only three penalties were called in the entire game, with the Lakers going 0/2 and the Lions going 0/1.  

On the offensive side of the equation, Nipissing piled on 44 shots toward Lions goaltender Emma Wedgewood and they’ll look to get a few past her when they visit the Lions in game two, in what is now a do-or-die situation for Nipissing.  

But it isn’t a situation they are unfamiliar with as this team has gone through a lot of tough playoff matchups over the last few years, including having to win back-to-back games in overtime against Waterloo in last year's semi-final series.  

“For some reason, we love to go into overtime in these playoff games,” says Hayhurst. “But I’m confident in this team, I’m confident in our abilities.”  

And she should be, as this Lakers team was one of the most offensively gifted teams that’s ever been put together in the programs history. The Lakers have seen their single-season point totals, goals and assists records broken this year.  

“Our offence has been good all year and they know how to score. I’m confident that we will come back in our next game and take it to them in their barn.” 

This is the first time the Lions are in the post-season since 2019-2020 when they went all the way to the USports Nationals, qualifying for the tournament despite a loss to Toronto in the McCaw Cup finals that year, a scenario the Lakers know all too well. The Lions also defeated the Lakers in two straight games in the semi-finals during that post-season.  

Game two takes place Friday morning at the Canlan Ice Sports facility with puck drop set for 11:30 a.m. 

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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