Laura Hosier sure knows how to rise to the occasion.
A day before her 21st birthday, the Team Canada White goalie combined with Charline Labonté to make 38 saves in a 4-0 victory over Team Canada Red in the championship game of the International Women’s Fall Festival at the Prince George Coliseum on Saturday.
Hosier, who grew up just north of Toronto in Sharon, Ont., couldn’t have performed as well in goal without the support of her teammates. Her counterpart in goal Labonté, did her part by not surrendering any goals through the first half of the game as Hosier entered the game in the second period with the comfort of a 2-0 lead.
Despite finishing ahead in shots by a 38-29 count, Team Red never found the back of the net. Playing in front of a crowd of about 500, Hosier made several crucial saves in the final period to complete the shutout in a 4-0 Team White victory.
“I don’t really like to get ahead of myself during the game,” she said. “I try and stay in the moment and stay focused, but I knew I was feeling good and it felt like every shot that was coming I was going to stop it.[The shutout] was always on the back of my mind which is great for confidence and a great way to play.”
Hosier said the offensive support also helped, giving credit to Kelly Béchard, a forward from Sedley, Sask. who scored the team’s first three goals.
“I think Kelly Béchard getting the first two goals and then finishing off with a straight hat trick was absolutely amazing. She played amazing and was just finding the net so well and our team really came together behind her.”
Defenceman Tessa Bonhomme of Sudbury, Ont. one-timed a pass from forward Gina Kingsbury past Team Red goalie Sami Jo Small to complete the scoring with about seven minutes left on the clock.
“We had some chances, we just couldn’t bury the puck,” Team Red forward Gillian Apps said. “I don’t think that puck was necessarily bouncing our way. We worked pretty hard, but it just didn’t end up our way on the scoreboard.”
Béchard opened the scoring early in the second period when she put in a rebound past Team Red starting goalie Shannon Szabados.
Béchard’s second goal came minutes later when she skated in alone on Szabados and lifted a backhand shot past the 21-year-old goalie from Edmonton.
Béchard’s third goal came on the powerplay in the third period when she snapped a shot through the legs of Small, who came into net after both team’s switched goalies midway through the second period.
“I think as a team we felt pretty good heading into the game,” Béchard said.
“We were all feeling confident and we wanted to win for each other and I think that’s where it all starts. You never really know what’s going to happen and who’s going to get the bounces but we just knew we were going to work hard and do the little things right, and hopefully the goals come.”
The victory capped off a successful week for Hosier. She went into the final on a lengthy shutout streak, standing in goal for Team White’s two previous victories leading up to Saturday’s game – a 3-0 victory over Team Red on Wednesday and a 6-0 win over Sweden on Thursday.
She continued to frustrate Team Red players on Saturday, making several key stops.
“It was a lot of fun and I think the thing we take the most pride in is the fact we were able to keep [Team Red] off the scoreboard in their last two games,” Team White coach Lisa Jordan said. “They exploded offensively against us in their first game [a 6-1 loss] and we knew that we had to have a lot of better habits defensively.
“Again, everybody bought into what we were trying to do and things fell into place for us really quickly. We thought it was important to get the first goal against them and we obviously did that in both games and you know we really tried to ride the momentum and keep it simple, keep good habits.
“I know it’s all clichés but that’s exactly what we did, and I thought our goaltending in both of those games was unbelievable and that kept us a step ahead of them, just making sure they stayed off the scoreboard and we kept putting them in.”
While the gold medal feels great, the work is far from over for Hosier and the rest of the Canadian women. Team Canada coaching staff used the Fall Festival to evaluate the progress of the 40 women participating in the event to help them select a team of 22 players to participate in the 4 Nations Cup tournament Nov. 3-12 in Sweden. The Canadian team is also holding a January evaluation camp in Calgary before they select a roster for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Hockey Championship April 4-13 in Harbin, China.
Hosier is aiming at making the Canadian women’s team participating in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but will be facing stiff challenges from the three other goalies that participated in last week’s Fall Festival.
Kim St. Pierre, who joined Labonté as the two Canadian goalies at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, is also challenging for a roster spot.
“[St. Pierre] is great and an amazing goaltender, as are all the other goaltenders here,” Hosier said. “So I’m just really excited that I was able to play my best and show them what I’m all about and leave it in their hands. I left everything on the ice.”
The coaches were pleased with the action on the ice and the hospitality of the host city.
“It was so much fun today and the crowd was great as well,” Jordan said.
“I think Prince George has been a great host for the girls, and they felt right at home here so it’s been a great experience for everybody.”