Day 14 Recap: Ontario plows through to female hockey medal round with 14-1 win
Ottawa’s Mackenzie Clarke, Ashley Allard and Naomi Baechler are moving on to the medal round of the Canada Winter Games female hockey tournament, carnage strewn in their wake.
Team Ontario assumed its rightful spot in the final four with a fourth consecutive thrashing yesterday in Charlottetown. Defender Clarke broke the ice with a first-period powerplay goal in Ontario’s quarter-final against New Brunswick at UPEI’s MacLauchlan Arena, and the floodgates opened shortly thereafter.
Clarke said it was fun to celebrate with her teammates early in the game and to lead the high-five line down the bench after her first marker of the tournament. Ontario’s celes got a little more muted as the tally climbed, even though many goals were of the dazzling variety and deserved a little whoop-whoop. Final damage: 14-1.
“It’s great. That’s been our objective from the start – to play our best game on March 5th,” highlighted Clarke, who added a powerplay assist later in the quarter-final contest. “Our toughest games are still ahead for sure.”
In tonight’s semi-final, Ontario will face the team that’s kept their contest closest so far in the tournament. Nova Scotia fell to Ontario 6-0 in their preliminary round clash, but will ride in with a bit a momentum from their 3-2 overtime victory over Saskatchewan in the quarter-final round.
The two teams that have looked strongest aside from Ontario will meet in the other semi. Quebec has three wins and a one-goal loss to British Columbia so far in the tournament, while B.C. is the only other unbeaten team alongside Ontario.
Ontario missed the medals for just the second time ever at the 2019 Canada Winter Games (which, for the record, could still happen again), but this incarnation of Team Ontario seems hellbent on righting that wrong. They’ve beaten Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Alberta and now New Brunswick by a ridiculous combined count of 35-2 in four games.
Clarke said it’s a little surprising to obtain the lopsided scores they have, “but that’s what we’re working for,” she underlined. “The coaches keep reminding us to pretend it’s 0-0, and I think that mentality’s been important for us to keep progressing.”
Ontario’s goalies have been the loneliest people since the Maytag repairman as their teammates have been busy lighting the lamp at the opposite end. Baechler has been alternating games between the pipes with Hannah Clark, the team’s other goalie.
It will be interesting to see who gets the start in the semi-final and medal matches – the coaches have a pretty small work sample on which to base their decision. Baechler has stopped 23 of 24 shots with one shutout, while Clark has stopped 29 of 30 with a shutout as well.
Clarke believes the team’s exceptional chemistry and communication have been a couple of the big keys to their success so far. A deep lineup of stars from well-matched clubs in the Ontario Women’s Hockey U22 Elite League has provided another important weapon.
“I’m used to playing against all these players, and I think us having that high level of competition all the time has definitely helped us,” signalled the Ottawa Lady Sens player. “It’s been really cool to have all the top players from each team come and play together. It’s really special to be a part of.”
Clarke has also treasured her time away from the rink at the Canada Games. She’s enjoyed getting to hang out with her former local teammates – Clarke played with Allard on the Nepean Wildcats last season, and she goes way back with Baechler to their early days with the Ottawa Ice.
“We just went out pin-trading together,” indicated Clarke, whose next goal is to complete her set of territories pins. “We’re having such a great time. The Canada Games are something you only get to do once in your career. It’s really been a dream experience here.”
Ontario floats on to the semi-finals at 6:30 p.m. ET tonight back at MacLauchlan Arena in Charlottetown. They’ll then play for either gold or bronze Sunday at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Ottawa athletes hold on to front pack in cross-country ski mass start
Six Ottawa cross-country skiers took to the start line for the female 10 km and male 15 km mass start free events yesterday at Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park.
Robin Mason was in the mix for the medals but had to settle for fifth place in a close finish to the male long distance race. The Calgary/Canmore-based Nakkertok Nordic athlete clocked a time of 41:31.7, just a tad off the winning time of 41:24.6.
Antoine Gauthier registered a 12th-place finish in 42:02.3, while Isaac Fortin earned his best finish out of three races at the Canada Games, placing 17th out of 66 entrants in 43:09.1.
Addison Frank, one of two 16-year-olds on Team Ontario, continued to stand tall against U20 competition, placing eighth in 32:21.3. Her time was less than a minute behind the female event winner.
Helen McCulligh also had her best finish in three tries, placing 12th in 32:59.5. The final Ottawa athlete entered on the female side was Clara Hegan, but she did not finish.
In archery, Durvishan Thananchayan qualified in third position for the individual male recurve elimination matches, but lost his head-to-head quarter-final contest to miss his first shot at the podium.
Day 15 Preview: There’s definitely an ‘I’ in ‘Team’ for skiers & archers
Today is the last big day of competition for local athletes in cross-country skiing and archery (only the female hockey event continues tomorrow – the day of the closing ceremonies).
While archery and cross-country skiing are very much individual sports, there are events in which the athletes compete with fellow members of their provincial delegations.
Thananchayan will be back in action for the archery mixed team recurve knockout competition. Ontario qualified in first place for the event that begins at 1:30 p.m. ET at Charlottetown’s Eastlink Centre.
Ontario plans to enter 2 or 3 teams in the 4 x 5 km free mixed relay cross-country skiing competition. The relays always provide an exciting conclusion to nordic ski meets. The participants will complete their fourth event in five days at the Canada Games today starting at 9 a.m. ET.
Many of the skiers then plan to attend the Saturday evening female hockey semi-final between Ontario and Nova Scotia. It’ll be a short jaunt over to MacLauchlan Arena from their accommodations at UPEI for the 6:30 p.m. ET puck drop.
Event livestreams are available at www.canadagames.ca/watch.
You can find links to schedules, and all of our Games coverage in one place, through our Ottawa at the Canada Winter Games central webpage:
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