North Bay, Ont. – It is one of the most anticipated rivalries in the province and the mounting tradition continues this weekend when the Laurentian Voyageurs and Nipissing Lakers women’s hockey teams hit the ice on Saturday, January 11th at Memorial Arena to not only see who will earn the critical OUA Marquee Matchup victory, but also which side claims the next coveted win in the 705 Challenge Cup.
While the 705 Challenge Cup has not existed for long, the two northern schools have made the most of their close proximity to bring a consistently compelling extra layer to each of their matchups. Whether on the pitch, the court, or the ice, the Lakers and Voyageurs ensure each get together is part of a grander tradition, something that has truly come to fruition since the introduction of their respective basketball and hockey programs. And after serving as adversaries in soccer for some time, including the yearly contest for the Riley Gallo Cup, the friendly rivalry has gone up a notch or two with these additional sports in tow.
While the rivalry remains friendly, the Voyageurs are the ones that can bring some extra bragging rights to the table thus far, having won each of the 705 Challenge Cups since its inception in the 2016-17 season. Laurentian took home overall wins of 8-4, 9-5, and 9-5, respectively, over the last three years, but the streak may be in jeopardy after Nipissing jumped out to the lead following the most recent fall semester.
Heading into their women’s hockey matchup, the Lakers are ahead by a 5-3 margin overall, but their nationally-ranked squad is eyeing another tally in the win column come Saturday. Leading the charge in that regard is team captain Jetta Derenoski. The fourth-year forward has 39 career points in 86 career games – having missed none during her university tenure – and has already shown an ability to come up clutch in her first season with the ‘C’. The Vawn, Sask. native has one game-winning goal and one shorthanded tally to her name this year and will surely be looking to make a similar splash on Saturday.
Joining Derenoski up front is the team’s leading scorer and one half of the dynamic sibling duo, Malory Dominico (North Bay, Ont.). The hometown forward has made the most of her rookie season, leading the team with seven goals, while also sitting tied for the team lead in points (12) with her sister, Maria Dominico (North Bay, Ont.). The family name has been a mainstay on the Nipissing scoresheet this season, including a tally from the eldest to close out their 3-1 over Laurentian in their season opening tilt this year, but the offence will have their hands full against one of the most impressive netminders in the province.
Looking to prevent the aforementioned trio and the fifth-ranked Nipissing offensive attack (2.64 goals per game) will be Shanna Dolighan, who has faced her fair share of shots on the year. Despite the quantity, the Oshawa, Ont. native has been up to the task time and time again and will be called upon to add to her 342 saves (2nd in OUA) and .937 SV% (4th in OUA) this weekend.
Dolighan has proven to be a steadying presence playing behind her team – an important role given that the team’s offence (1.79 goals per game) places them in the bottom three of the OUA – and it is exactly what they will need as they continue to push for a postseason berth. The third-year standout is able to keep her team in the game with her quiet presence in net, ultimately helping to set up a group who, while not jumping off the page statistically, does offer the epitome of a balanced attack with all but one position player recording at least a point this season.
From the crease out, each member of this balanced attack will need to bring their A-game against Nipissing, because while history in the 705 Challenge Cup as a whole is on the side of the Voyageurs, their head-to-head track record on the ice favours the Lakers of late, with the Nipissing women’s squad claiming wins in six of their last seven meetings.
A win on Saturday would put Nipissing that much closer to claiming their first 705 Challenge Cup, but the teams will have more than just their annual rivalry on the line. Positioning will also be a prominent prize at play in the tightly contested conference with just over a month to go before the postseason. Nipissing has become accustomed to regular season success and is hoping to not only punch their ticket to another playoff push – currently sitting among the OUA’s top squads – but wreak some havoc therein. Laurentian, meanwhile, who is currently on the outside looking in, is hoping to turn the page on three straight campaigns without a playoff appearance and ride their recent six-game stretch of .500 play into a spot in the second season.
The puck will drop at 7:30pm at the Memorial Arena in North Bay on Saturday night between these spirited rivals, and as the hockey season enters it’s winter stretch and the schools have just four meetings left in this year’s 705 Challenge Cup, it will be a valuable 60 minutes of play for both sides in this latest OUA Marquee Matchup.
Fans can catch all the action live on oua.tv.