Burlington's Emma Maltais finished second in the PWHL in scoring with
54 points. Though her Oakville Hornets were upset in the league
semifinals, they rebounded Sunday to win the Ontario Women's Hockey
Association championship with a triple overtime victory over Stoney
Not many teams get an opportunity to rewrite the ending to their season. The Oakville Hornets did, and made the most of it.
After a dominating season in which they went the 31-3-4, the Hornets were edged 2-1 by the Stoney Creek Sabres in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League semifinal. Though they bounced back the next day to take the bronze medal with an overtime win over Toronto, the medal did not have the shine the Hornets hoped for.
“Losing in the final four, we were really mad about that,” said Burlington’s Emma Maltais, the Hornets’ leading scorer. “It wasn’t the way we wanted to end the year.”
Fortunately, the provincial championship two weeks later provided the chance to make up for it. Playing the same Stoney Creek team in Sunday’s final, Maltais scored with 2:37 to play in the third period to tie the game. The Hornets went on to win 3-2 in triple overtime to take the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association championship.
“It was so incredible,” said Maltais. “The overtimes were going by so fast. There were a lot of chances for both teams and it was back and forth. Then when Amy (Curlew) got the breakaway and scored, we were hugging and screaming. It was really cool.”
“We knew we had something special. We knew we had some good players coming in and some good players coming up from midget,” said Burlington’s Lauren Patterson, who had 21 points for the Hornets. “To be able to pull through, especially against the team that knocked us out of the final four, it completely exceeded my expectations.”
The Hornets also needed overtime to edge Whitby 2-1 in the semfinals, their fifth of six straight wins at the provincial tournament.
Maltais had an outstanding season with the Hornets. Not only did she lead the team in scoring, she finished second in the league with 54 points. She was one of just two 15-year-olds to finish among the top-10 in the league.
Her play did not go unnoticed. She has already committed to Ohio State University, where she’ll join her Hornet linemate Madison Field in two years. She also earned an invitation to Hockey Canada’s summer strength and conditioning camp, the first step in the evaluation process for the Canadian under-18 team.
Though Maltais had previous experience in PWHL — she played in 10 games and scored her first goal as a 13-year-old bantam call-up two years ago, then averaged a point a game in five games last year — she was still surprised how well her rookie season unfolded.
“My goal, in my mind, was to try to make a difference,” she said. “I’m still in shock how well it went. I thought I would have to get used to the faster play, but I got to play with some really talented people.”
A week into the season, Maltais began a 13-game scoring streak in which she racked up 12 goals and 27 points that shot her to the top of the PWHL scoring race. One game after the streak was snapped, she scored her first hat trick and had five points in an 8-1 win over Leaside.
The Nelson High School student’s production helped Oakville open the season with a 21-game unbeaten streak. And while the points were impossible to ignore, Maltais said it was the more subtle aspects of her game that made the difference for her.
“I think I improved most in puck possession but also in the defensive aspects,” she said. “I blocked a lot more shots, was better on faceoffs and backchecking. I think it was mostly making the right decisions rather than going out and thinking, ‘oh, I’ll try this.’”
Maltais still has two more years to refine her game before going to college. She plans on visiting Field at Ohio State, which will not only give her a taste of what to expect, but also let her get to know her future teammates.
And she expects the upcoming Hockey Canada camp will only help her game.
“It will be good for my development,” she said, “being able to work off other players, see what they do, where I can improve. I’m really looking forward to it.”
If her game takes another step forward, opponents may not be so excited to see her next year.
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