They're more than halfway there, but they're definitely living on a prayer right now. The Dinos women's hockey squad needs to win all four of their remaining games to have a hope at making the playoffs in their first season since returning to Canadian Interuniversity Sport (and get a little help from the University of Regina Cougars along the way). But that doesn't faze this team that has come together in the winter semester, picking up nine of the last 12 points.
"I think we just had to come together as a team," says Dinos forward Danielle Boyce.
The team started well, with a 3-1 win on the road at the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in their first game, but then went on to lose 13 straight. Now they've only lost one game in regulation in their last six, and have one hopeful eye aimed at the playoffs.
"We had to trust each other and know that, win or lose, we've gotta be there for each other," Boyce says. "Once we realized that, we started winning and having fun."
It's also helped that the team has recovered from a slew of injuries that hampered the squad throughout their 13-game slide.
"Having everyone together, we feel like more of a team; we feel more comfortable together," says captain Cait O'Hara.
Now that they're getting their act together, they're going to need a deus ex machina to add a storybook ending to the season. They're also going to need to write part of their own script by winning their remaining games, including two this weekend at home against the aforementioned Thunderbirds. After the Dinos overcame nerves and won the first game, the T-Birds struck back with a 4-1 win the next night. O'Hara says that the team playing in that first series and this next one are two different squads.
"In any sport, in any league, there's a huge difference between the team in the first game and in the last game of the season," says O'Hara. "There's a lot of improvement, things change. We've definitely improved, we know how to win now."
After compiling only four more wins in the games after the opening series (all of them during their recent stretch of success), the Dinos feel that maybe they might be underestimated a little bit by their opponents.
"I don't think they know how far we've come," says d-woman Casey Irving. "They probably want to come in and walk away with it, but we're not going to let them."
The T-Birds, with 15, sit four points ahead of the Dinos, who are in last place in the conference. The Cougars hold down the final playoff spot in Canada West, with 16 points. The University of Lethbridge Pronghorns have 12 and are sandwiched between the Dinos and the T-Birds. This weekend the Pronghorns take on the Cougars in Regina. The best the Dinos could hope for would be a two-game sweep by the Pronghorns over the Cougars. If the Dinos swept their games over the T-Birds, they would sit one back of the final playoff spot, and the Pronghorns and the Cougars, heading into a final weekend, in which they would take on the Pronghorns in back-to-back games. They would still need the Cougars to lose one or both of their games on that final weekend to have a shot at the post-season. Stranger things have happened.