Lions host Gaels in fifth annual Roar for a Cure game Saturday

Saturday’s (Jan. 12) women’s hockey game is more than just another contest on the schedule, as the York University Lions women’s hockey team is also raising money for cancer research in its fifth annual Roar for a Cure game.

The contest against the Queen’s Gaels begins at 2pm at Canlan Ice Sports, and it can also be seen live online at SSN Canada. There will be chances to bid on team jerseys and signed photos, and  there will be collection boxes around York female hockey player and the Candian Cancer Society logothe rink for fans to make donations. All proceeds from the game will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Fans in attendance will also have the chance to win a one-night stay at the Holiday Inn Toronto-Yorkdale and tickets to see Monster Jam at the Rogers Centre on Jan. 19.

The Roar for a Cure was started five years ago by former Lions captain Jessica Turi, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease at the age of 18, just after she had enrolled at York University.

After 12 bouts of chemotherapy, all while she completed classes as a student at York, Turi was pronounced healthy by her doctors. She spent that summer getting back in shape and joined the Lions in time for the 2005-2006 season. She was a valuable member of the team for four years before graduating at the end of the 2008-2009 season.

“I started the York Lions Roar for a Cure charity hockey game in 2008 and the outcome was better than I could ever have imagined,” said Turi. “I felt compelled to give back to the cause that had once affected me so closely. It is my hope that with this event we can give hope to all those being affected by cancer that we are on the verge of a cure, on the verge of making cancer something of the past, and at the very least that we can give people a sense of inspiration to get through their struggles, knowing they have the support of many.”

The on-ice action promises to be exciting as the Lions face off against the Gaels in a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff series the Lions won in double overtime in the final game of the best-of-three series.

This year the Gaels are one of the top teams in the country and are currently ranked fifth in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), thanks to a sparkling 14-2-1 record that has them in second place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) standings. The Lions, meanwhile, struggled through the first half of the year and are currently two points out of a playoff spot in ninth place with a record of 4-10-2.

The Lions are coming off a successful Theresa Humes Tournament in Montreal, where they won two games and scored 14 goals over those two victories – seven each in a 7-5 win over Carleton and a 7-4 triumph over Ottawa. They will be looking to build on that momentum this weekend against both Queen’s and UOIT (7-7-2), who they will face on Sunday afternoon at 2pm at Canlan Ice Sports.

The Lions are looking for their first conference victory since an exciting 3-2 win over then-No. 9 nationally ranked Toronto. They have since dropped six in a row but picked up a point in their most recent OUA game in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Waterloo Warriors.

The Lions are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the OUA – their 29 goals in 16 games is the third-lowest total in the conference – and they are getting their offence from some unlikely sources in defenders Kristen Barbara of Mount Hope and Rebecca Bond of Espanola. Barbara, an OUA and CIS all-rookie team member last year, is currently second in the Lions with eight points (two goals, six assists) from the back end. Her eight total points rank 12th in the OUA among all defenders. Bond has five points (two goals, three assists) this season, and both of her goals were scored on the power play, a mark that leads all Lions.

The team’s leading scorer is third-year forward Lisa Stathopulos of Toronto with seven goals and 10 points.

The Gaels, meanwhile, are one of the highest-scoring teams in the OUA with 62 goals in 17 games, and that has helped them put together one of the best records in the CIS. In their final game before the holiday break, the Gaels saw their six-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Western Mustangs, who have been responsible for the last two losses by the Gaels. Their only other defeat was a 1-0 shootout loss to Toronto in their season opener.

In their most recent six-game winning streak the Gaels outscored their opponents 22-5, and their run included three straight games in which the squad did not allow a goal.

The Queen’s roster features nine players with more than 10 points on the season, led by leading scorer Morgan McHaffie of Guelph with 25 points. She is the Gaels’ leader in goals (nine), assists (16) and power play goals (four).

The Ridgebacks are one of the hottest teams in the conference right now with five wins in their last seven outings and just one regulation loss in that stretch. The streak began with a dominant 7-4 win over the Ryerson Rams in early November, and since then the Ridgebacks have also defeated the Lions, the Mustangs, the Rams again and the Varsity Blues, and earned a point in a shootout loss to the Warriors.

Earning those 11 of a possible 14 points has vaulted the Ridgebacks up the standings and they are now comfortably in a playoff spot in seventh place.

Like the Lions, the Ridgebacks are also a low scoring team and have netted 41 goals this year, the fifth-lowest total in the OUA. Their leader is Jill Morillo of Whitby, who has 12 points and is also the squad’s leader with eight goals.

The Lions will be on the road next week for games against the Guelph Gryphons (Thursday, Jan. 17, 7:30pm) and Brock Badgers (Saturday, Jan. 19, 3:15pm). They will return to home ice the following weekend in a Saturday afternoon contest against the conference’s best team, the Laurier Golden Hawks.

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