by Geordie Carragher
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – It was a game worth all the hype and more.
In a battle of the two undefeated teams at the 2012 Esso Cup, a goal by Jillian Langtry (Fort Frances, Ont.) midway through the third period stood up as the winner, and despite a barrage of shots in the last 30 seconds, the 2010 Esso Cup gold medallists the Thunder Bay Queens (Ontario) edged the Pembina Valley Hawks (West) 5-4 at the CARI Complex to skate away with their final win of preliminary action.
Rookie defender Farrah Nicholl (Thunder Bay, Ont.) scored twice for the Queens, while Lauryn Keen (Manitou, Man.) had a pair for the Hawks.
But Pembina Valley drew first blood on a power-play in the first period. Kate Friesen (Altona, Man.) dug hard to get the puck into the slot, with a bounce off the skate of Brooke Drummond (Holland, Man.) sending it past goaltender Jayde Turcotte (Thunder Bay, Ont.) to give the Hawks an early 1-0 lead, and put the Thunder Bay Queens behind for the first time all tournament.
The Queens struck back four minutes later, as defenceman Michela Coulter (Thunder Bay, Ont.) kept the puck deep in Hawk territory, where captain Michela Cava (Thunder Bay, Ont.) picked it up. Cava battled hard behind the goal line, finding 2010 Esso Cup MVP Kaitlyn Tougas (Thunder Bay, Ont.), who put it past Hawks netminder Brittni Mowat (Glenboro, Man.) to tie the score at one-apiece after 20 minutes.
Thunder Bay took over the lead midway through the second, with Nicholl scoring her first of the tournament as she banged in a rebound from just outside the crease. She struck again four minutes later, with her shot from the point finding its way through traffic and into the back of the Pembina Valley net to give the Queens a 3-1 lead.
Pembina Valley responded a little over a minute later following a great individual effort from Jessica Kaminsky (La Salle, Man.). She rushed up the ice, fighting of the Queens defence before neatly tucking the puck past the goal line to bring her team to within one. Pembina Valley found the equalizer in the dying seconds of the second, as Keen collected the rebound following a Hutchinson point shot that was just off the mark. She grabbed the puck off the boards and banked it into the net to make it 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Thunder Bay came out flying in the third, applying constant pressure on Pembina Valley. Their efforts were rewarded at 1:56 in the period, as Coulter kept the puck in at the blue line, and Bronwyn Bolduc (Thunder Bay, Ont.) fed Drue Ahola (Thunder Bay, Ont.) in front to put the Queens up 4-3. Jillian Langtry (Fort Frances, Ont.) then put the Queens up 5-3 to beat Mowat on the high blocker side.
Pembina Valley reclaimed some momentum, and Mowat made an outstanding save, sticking out her pad to rob Tougas following a 2-on-1 with Cava. Moments later, Keen scored her second of the game to bring Pembina Valley back to within a single goal, but it just wasn’t enough for the western region representatives, with time running out on the clock and the Ontario team taking the 5-4 win.
Mowat made 31 saves for Pembina Valley, while Turcotte and Megan Leikkari (Thunder Bay, Ont.) combined to make 17 saves for Thunder Bay.
The win gives the Thunder Bay Queens first place in the round robin standings, and they’ll play Halifax Metro Boston Pizza (Atlantic) at 6 p.m. AT on Friday. Despite the loss, the Pembina Valley Hawks clinch second place, and they’ll play the Edmonton Thunder (Pacific) at 2 p.m. AT on Friday.
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