The Last Dance: Varsity Blues veterans hoping to go out in glory

The McCaw Cup will be an emotional farewell for 13 Varsity Blues players playing in their final season.

Several of Toronto's top players will play their final game for the Varsity Blues in the McCaw Cup on Saturday. (Photo: Howard Bailey/Centennial College) 

TORONTO – Nearly half of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s hockey team will have their last dance Saturday night at the 2024 McCaw Cup.

A win against the Waterloo Warriors would not only put a stamp on Toronto’s adversity-filled season, but it would also be a fitting end for a veteran group that has won two of the last three OUA titles.

“I don’t think any of us would have expected to have home ice for the OUA finals,” said captain Taylor Trussler. “I think it’s a pretty special feeling that we get to play our last home game in the OUA finals.”

Having 13 graduating players on the roster undoubtedly helped the Blues overcome the many adversities they faced this season and gave them a mental toughness needed when their backs were against the wall in the playoffs.

The Blues battled back against the Queen’s University Gaels in the quarter-finals after dropping Game 1 of the best-of-three series. No. 8 ranked Toronto also dropped Game 1 in the semi-finals against the Guelph Gryphons, the No. 3 ranked team in the country, before rallying to win the next two games.  

“I knew it was going to be a close game. They got a pretty good goalie on their end too, so I knew it was going to be a tight one,” said fifth year netminder Erica Fryer. “So, I was just taking it one shot at a time and making sure I gave my team a chance to win it.”

“I felt after we lost Game 1 against Guelph, people weren’t saying ‘Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh,’” said head coach Vicky Sunohara. “It seemed that they were more confident.”

They have a reason to be confident. Sunohara is a calming presence who has done it all over her esteemed career as a coach and player, including being named the OUA and U Sports coach of the year for the last three seasons. Trussler and Fryer have been the backbone of this burgeoning dynasty on the ice, leading Toronto to the McCaw Cup in four of their five seasons while earning OUA All-Star honours three and four times, respectively.

“Obviously it’s not the first time we’ve been here so I think you get to learn what to expect,” said Trussler. “Like Erica was saying, you’ve got to take it one shift at a time, one period at a time and not get too far ahead of yourself.”

Win or lose on Saturday, it will be an emotional night for many players who will put on the Varsity Blues sweater one last time.

“They’re emotional because they want to do well in their final year,” said Sunohara. “It’s just been awesome. I can’t say enough about this group.”

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Posted: Mar 8 2024 5:55 pm
Filed under: Hockey Sports