Ottawa, ON – What do you do when you already know from the start of the season that your team will not win many games? What’s your philosophy? What does “growth” actually mean if it isn’t directly on the scoresheet?
Those are some of the questions that new Carleton Ravens head coach Stacey Colarossi will continue to need to deal with as she watched her team fall 3-1 to the uOttawa Gee-Gees on Saturday night, dropping their fourth straight game to open the new campaign.
When she stood outside the Carleton dressing room in the bowels of the Ice House following Carleton’s 4-2 loss to Montreal the previous night, Colarossi emphasized the importance of effort. The Ravens may have lost, but they had a consistent effort across the sixty minutes. Whether they could carry that over for a rare back-to-back game would be the next question.
Carleton took a trip up Colonel By Drive to Minto Sports Complex for their first back-to-back of the year, for their second of five meetings with the uOttawa Gee-Gees. It was the effort, especially early, that doomed the Ravens in their first meeting with the Gee-Gees on Oct. 21, as Ottawa put three in the net before the eleven-minute mark of the first and cruised to a 4-1 win.
Early on, it looked like the tiredness of a back-to-back was getting to the Ravens as Ottawa fired ten shots on goal to Carleton’s one, but Frederike Lavoie-Leroux stood tall in the Carleton net. It was back-to-back starts for Lavoie-Leroux, who turned aside 39 shots in the 4-2 loss the previous night but stood firm in the net thanks also to help from the Ravens’ defence.
“We weren’t able to get into the middle of the ice as well against them early on today,” Ottawa assistant coach Greg Bowles said. “Once we started to break them down a little bit, that’s when we started to take advantage.”
The Gee-Gees finally broke through eight minutes into the first when Kylie Lalonde took a feed off a two-on-one from Katherine Birkby and chipped it by Lavoie-Leroux to give Ottawa the 1-0 that held through the end of the first.
Early in the second, an interference call on Rhys Cole-Ashbury sent the Gee-Gees to the power play where it was Birkby again, this time finding an open Abygail Maloughney, who dropped it in to make it 2-0 for the Gee-Gees.
The Ravens didn’t fold, though; late in the period, on their own powerplay, Shannon Macdonald took a seeing-eye shot that found its way through a mess of bodies and past Aurelie Dubuc to cut the lead to 2-1 after two periods. An increase in the fight from the Ravens is something that Colarossi can see.
“They’re doing a good job at picking each other up,” Colarossi said. “When other teams are scoring goals and the first goal, early in the year, they were getting really deflated, and they’re coming back hungrier, which is nice to see.”
In the third, the Ravens got their chances, but halfway through the period, sophomore Alyssa Biesenthal found the back of the net for the Gee-Gees to give them the 3-1 lead and for her, her first RSEQ goal.
“Long time coming,” Biesenthal said. “It’s been a year and a bit, so I’m glad to finally get it going, and hopefully more to come.”
After Aoife Murphy went to the box for tripping and was followed by Kate Lengyel getting a double minor for a hit to the head, putting the Ravens down 5-on-3 with less than two minutes to play, the Gee-Gees just wound downtime and walked away with the 3-1 win.
For the Ravens, for the second straight night, the effort was there for parts but once again, the end result wasn’t quite enough. For Colarossi, though, the consistent effort means that the process can move forward to tactics rather than just needing to focus on showing up.
“Our statistics on offensive zone recovery aren’t good enough; we need to get that puck and be more hungry to cover that puck and then be able to attack off that,” Colarossi said.
“That’s kind of the next step of not playing so much in your defensive zone so that when you do get to the offensive zone, there’s some gas in the tank, and you can make plays.”
On the other side it’s a lot simpler. The Gee-Gees finish off the 4-0-0 sweep in October and, in a tight conference like the RSEQ, will happily keep adding up early season wins.
“It’s a great motivation to bank those points early on because games in RSEQ are never easy to win,” Bowles said. “So we’ve just got to take this momentum and continue to build, and on Tuesday, we get back on the ice and get back to work.”