Women’s hockey team playoff- bound

Cougars get a split in a controversial Saturday game.

The Cougars solidify their playoff position with a split

As the University of Regina’s women’s hockey team continued their post-Christmas drive, I caught up with the orchestrator behind their late season charge: head coach Sarah Hodges.

The weekend brought some exciting games to the Co-operators Centre. Both Friday and Saturday were hard-fought bouts, but the Cougars picked up just a single 3-0 win on Friday, while they fell to the Bisons 2-1 on Saturday. Elise Endicott led the team with two goals, while captain Jaycee Magwood added another two assists, and Jane Kish extended her shutout record to seven. For Hodges, it was a bit of a mixed bag.

“I think we actually played better on Saturday than Friday. Our league is really close so we would have liked to have six points, but I think it was a good wake up call for us as well.”

“We might have taken them a little bit more lightly than we have the last few weekends so that bit us a little bit, but I think we’ve been happy with how the team has been playing.”

The refereeing was questionable on Saturday, with a number of borderline calls. The most notable of these was on the second Manitoba goal where it looked like three Manitoba players were piled on Kish in her crease, but the whistle wasn’t blown and there was no goalie interference call.

“We thought that there should have been a whistle on the play, so we have to accept it and keep going. You just have to move on and respond better,” said Hodges.

Despite the loss, the team is on a remarkable run, winning seven of their last eight and completely turning their season around from last place to playoff bound. To what does Hodges attribute that success?

“I think the biggest thig is that there was an attitude shift at Christmas. We took stock of what’s important and decided that the team winning is more important than ice time. They’ve started to play as a team and played really well.”

Some of these players who have stepped into their roles are the rookies, who Hodges notes have made a big difference.

“I think they’ve all done really well; Paige Hubbard is playing a ton and she’s putting the puck in the net for us. We’ve had three rookies playing D, and when they’re in they are very heavily depended on. It’s a really good class which is exciting.”

Of course, when you are talking about impact players during the run, the first name that comes to mind is goaltender Kish. Her seven shutouts this season lead Canada West and mark a Cougars record. For Hodges, goaltending has been a game changer.

“Our league is so close that one bad goal can make the difference between winning and losing so it really is important to have someone back there that’s steady and consistent. She’s doing her job and she’s doing it very well. If you don’t have that you don’t win many games in this league.”

Now that the team is playoff-bound, what is the next step for the Cougars?

“I think the team’s goal was to have a home playoff weekend so we are in that position right now but we will need to have two more solid weekends to make that a reality so hopefully we can get that done in the next couple weeks.”

The Cougars will be back in action in Edmonton Jan. 31 against the league-leading Pandas and will then return home to face the rival Huskies Feb. 7.

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