LONDON, Ont. – For the first time in program history, the Western Mustangs are the OUA Women's Hockey Champions as they defeated the Guelph Gryphons 2-0 in the championship final on Saturday afternoon at Thompson Arena.
"I thought we played our finest game of the season," said Mustangs head coach Chris Higgins. "There were stretches when we were a little bit back on our heels but we had solid d-zone coverage. I thought we forechecked, I thought we skated, I thought we moved the puck. I thought it was one of our best games."
The Mustangs hoisted the Judy McCaw Memorial Cup thanks to goals from Sydney Kidd and Kendra Broad. Kidd, who was named Porter Player of the Playoffs after recording five goals and one assist in five games, scored what would end up being the game winner less than a minute into the second period.
"I've been here for five years and if there is anytime to start playing your best hockey I guess now would be it, so I've been happy with my performance [throughout the playoffs]," said Kidd.
Mustangs goaltender Kelly Campbell picked up her fifth win of the 2015 playoffs, stopping all 23 shots she faced to earn Harrow Player of the Game honours and record her first shutout of the post-season. Stephanie Nehring put in a strong performance in the Gryphon net, turning aside 22 of 24 shots in the loss.
"That's huge," said Campbell on being named player of the game. "There are so many girls out on that ice that deserve it, I was just fortunate enough to get it this year, but there are definitely a lot of girls that deserve it."
After a scoreless first period the Mustangs opened the scoring only 49 seconds into the second period as Sydney Kidd recorded her fifth goal of the post-season, jamming the puck past Nehring at the side of the net to give Western a 1-0 lead.
Both teams traded chances on back-to-back power plays midway through the frame, however neither side was able to solve the other, sending the game into the third with the Mustangs up 1-0.
Despite some pressure from the Gryphons early on, it was the Mustangs who made their mark on the scoreboard with Kendra Broad going high on the blocker side on a two-on-one to extend Western's lead to 2-0 near the seven-minute mark of the period.
With time winding down Guelph picked up the pace and looked to be building some momentum in the offensive end, however a penalty with 3:44 left on the clock put them back on the defensive, and the Mustangs skated away with a 2-0 win and their first-ever OUA title.
"I think we're going to celebrate tonight and not give [the CIS Championship] any thought," said Higgins when asked about moving forward to compete for the CIS title next week. "Tomorrow we'll wake up and design a practice plan. We have no experience, this is unchartered territory out there, and we're going to have to get the girls in the right mindset because if you lose the first game you're basically finished. We are ranked number two now so we will get presumably a lower seed which will be a bonus, but it doesn't mean it's going to be easy."
Both the Mustangs and Gryphons now advance to next week's CIS Women's Hockey Championship, being hosted by the University of Calgary. The quarterfinals begin Thursday, March 12 with the championship final set for Sunday, March 15, at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.