It was do-or-die time for teams Manitoba and Québec on Day Two of preliminary-round action at the U-18 National Women’s Hockey Championship.
Following losses on Wednesday, both provinces – considered by many as Group B favourites to advance to the semi-finals – were on their heels entering play on Thursday.
Québec won 5-1 over Alberta, and Manitoba edged out Ontario-Blue 2-1, as both teams avoided elimination from the medal round.
Up 2-1 after the second period, Québec scored three unanswered goals in the third to put the game to bed and improve to 1-1 in the Group-B preliminaries.
“We didn’t have a choice, we had to win if we wanted to get a medal,” said Québec assistant coach David Morin, whose squad fell 4-2 to Ontario-Blue on Wednesday.
“We needed a spark and I think we may have gotten it today,” he added.
Elizabeth Giguère scored a hat trick for Québec with two goals coming in the third period. Catherine Daoust and captain Catherine Dubois added a goal each for Québec.
Dubois later said in interview, “I think we learned from that loss [to Ontario-Blue], we said ‘if we don’t give everything we got today we die’, so we went out and played like we know we can.”
Alberta’s lone goal went to Hannah Olynek who scored 30 seconds into the second period to tie the game at 1-1.
Assistant Coach Stephanie Jones said Alberta struggled advancing the puck and getting to Québec’s net.
“I would say we got away from our game plan. A lot of things we did well in the first game we strayed away from, and the other team took advantage of it,” she said, referring to the team’s 4-1 win over Manitoba on Wednesday.
As for Manitoba, they earned their first win of the tournament thanks in part to the late-game heroics of forward Courtlyn Oswald who scored the game-winner with nearly eight minutes left in the third period.
“This is the biggest goal of my life, for sure,” beamed Oswald after helping her team to a 2-1 win.
“We were really forcing them down low, my liney [linemate] got it near the blue-line and she made a nice pass to the slot for me and I just went top shelf,” said Oswald who beat Ontario-Blue goaltender Brittany Smrke glove-side after taking a nice feed from Stephanie Grossi.
Manitoba head coach Ashley van Aggelen said her team knew the urgency of getting a win versus Ontario-Blue.
“The girls came out with a completely different attitude today, we knew our backs were against the wall,” she highlighted. “The motivation was a lot different today than it was yesterday.”
She felt it was any teams’ game to lose entering the final period.
“Going into the third it was a one bounce, one shot kind of game,” she said. “The girls knew they just needed one [goal], and they had to work hard to get it. Once they got that one goal it was just about protecting the house.”
Bradi Cochrane, head coach for Ontario-Blue, said Manitoba rightfully deserved the win.
“Manitoba is a tough team, they executed their game plan, and unfortunately we didn’t execute from the first to third period,” she noted. “Their pressure throughout was pretty consistent, we didn’t match that, so they deserve to win.”
Pool-B is all square entering the final day of preliminaries, with each team sitting at 1-1. The winners of Québec vs. Manitoba, and Alberta vs. Ontario-Blue will earn a spot in the semi-finals. Québec faces Manitoba at 10:00 a.m. and Alberta meets Ontario-Blue at 1:00 p.m.