Hosted by Concordia at the Ed Meagher Arena, the Stingers have dominated the tourney for most of the last decade, but were not up to the task this weekend when the number one ranked T-Blues took the gold, largely due to the outstanding performance of goaltender Alison Houston, and tournament MVP, captain Jen Rawson.
Having advanced to the final after a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the Middlebury Panthers the day before, the Stingers looked sluggish, while the T-Blues came out fresh and upbeat after handing the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks a 3-1 loss.
From the first drop of the puck, it was clear the T-Blues meant business, controlling the flow when forward Jenny McRae received a pass through the crease and put the puck past Stinger goalie Lisa Herritt only 1:12 into the game.
The play moved back and forth for the next few minutes with neither team getting any particularly good chances, until a Toronto defender fell on the puck in the crease, forcing the referee to call a Concordia penalty shot.
The chance went to one of the newest Stingers, Caroline Ouellette, who also plays for the Montreal Wingstar of the National Women’s Hockey League.
Ouellette, the tournament’s leading scorer, was not able to convert on the shot, stopped cold by the sharp U of T goalie.
On the ensuing play, the Stingers had three glorious scoring chances, but failed to hit the net and took a penalty, quashing any momentum they may have gained.
After two more power play opportunities, and with the T-Blues still up by one, Stinger captain Lisa-Marie Breton had a golden chance, standing by herself in front, only to be absolutely robbed by Houston’s quick glove. Then right after the save, Breton showed her frustration by taking a penalty for hooking a Toronto player to the ice.
The end of the first frame saw some fast paced four-on-four action, as the T-Blues also had a player in the box. The Stingers seemed to be gaining momentum once again, but still headed to the dressing room down 1-0.
Although Concordia seemed ready to explode in the second, it was Toronto that struck first, when Stinger M.C. Allard was caught pinching in the U of T zone. Toronto’s Jillian Savin managed to keep the puck away from Allard, then went streaking up the ice on a two-on-one with Rawson, who put it over Herritt’s leg to put her team up 2-0.
The home team wasn’t ready to quit just yet, and pressured heavily in the opposition’s end, only to be constantly foiled by Houston.
Toronto responded to their netminder’s performance by scoring two quick goals to take what would prove to be an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
Concordia did manage to solve Houston late in the period when Ouellette atoned for her earlier miss by converting a pretty passing play into a goal. Winger Kendra MacDonald sent the puck from the point in behind the net to Allard, who then feathered a pretty pass to Ouellette. She had to take two bangs at it, but managed to get it by the sprawling goalie.
With a three goal advantage, the T-Blues left the ice confidently for the second intermission, while their counterparts in the Stingers room had to figure out a way to get back into the game.
It became clear that a win would not be in the books for the home team, however, when after nine minutes of Toronto’s smothering defence, the visitors went up by four, and then five, when Herritt let a weak one through her legs, and another on a two on one.
The rest of the period was a defensive affair, as the T-Blues were content simply trapping the Stingers in their own end, never needing to press for another goal.
Concordia managed to get one more when Annie Surprenant scored what can only be described as an ugly goal as she shot it in off the back of Houston’s leg with just over a minute left to play.
Stinger head coach Les Lawton was not about to put the blame on his goaltender or anyone else after the game.
“We didn’t play that poorly, we just couldn’t put it in the net,” he said. “(Toronto) is a good team, there’s a reason they’re ranked number one.
“They’re quick, and now we know what we’re up against. This can be a very good stepping stone to the nationals,” he added.
The Stingers next face St. Laurent on the road tonight. Their next home game is February 3, when they entertain cross-town rivals, the McGill Martlets.