The Martlets won the Quebec Student Sports Federation semi-final series, a best-of-three contest, against the Carleton Ravens last week. The Martlets, however, didn’t need all three games against the Ravens: on February 23 Gillian Ferrari, former defender for the national team, put a quick end to game one to earn a 1-0 victory. In game two, more members of the squad (Katia Clement-Heydra, Lisa Zane, Chelsea Saunders and Alessandra Lind-Kenney) contributed on the scoresheet in a dominant 4-0 win. As a result, the Martlets are heading into the QSSF final against the University of Montreal Carabins at McConnell Arena on March 3, and at Montreal on March 4. After this last QSSF hurdle, they’re hoping to head to the CIS nationals to reclaim the gold.
The team also clinched a winning streak of 100 consecutive games against Quebec University Hockey League opponents the Friday before last against Montreal. In addition, two players, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Carly Hill, scored the winning goals to help Canada snag the 2011 Winter Universiade Gold Medal in Turkey in early February. Although these achievements in themselves are phenomenal, the team is far too busy with their eye on CIS gold to spend time patting themselves on the back.
The Martlets won gold two years in a row before last season, when Alberta sniped the title, with McGill’s all-star goalie Charline Labonte away at the Olympics in Vancouver. The girls are determined to win gold in Waterloo, Ontario at nationals this year.
Most athletes can attest that any successful team has its roots in its coaching staff. Head Coach Peter Smith has been a significant factor in the success of the Martlets. Smith has coached women’s hockey national teams at the last two Olympics, and has coached the McGill Martlet squad since 1999. Being named CIS Coach of the Year and QSSF Coach of the Year on numerous occasions, he and assistant coaches Amy Doyle, Shauna Denis and Stewart McCarthey are all integral to the team’s consistent success.
This confluence of talent and a history of excellence makes the Martlets unlike any other team at McGill.
“I think when you have success over a period of time there are very high expectations,” said Smith. “So I think sometimes your successes as you go along aren’t appreciated as much. But, you know, there are no victims here.”
Accolades aside, what further sets the team apart from others at McGill is that they break the age-old prejudice that only male sports engage fans enough to come out and watch them. Smith hopes for a big outporing of support before the team heads to Waterloo for CIS championships,
“I think it makes a difference for the players,” said Smith.
With a roster of exceptionally hard-working, successful, and dedicated hockey stars, the Martlets squad is a team that warrants watching. The girls have represented McGill University not only in Montreal and Quebec, but across the nation, and internationally as well.
The McGill women’s hockey program was the first of its kind in North America when it began in 1896, only 12 years after women were first allowed to study at McGill. While the women’s team wasn’t always nationally acclaimed, the arrival of Kim St-Pierre (two time CIS All Canadian, CIS Player of the Year in 2002-2003, CIS Championship MVP 1999-2000, Team Canada Olympian 2002, 2006, 2010) jump-started the program. Since her arrival, amazing athletes have consistently joined the highly competitive squad. One such player is Melodie Daoust, a nationally sought-after hockey star, who just signed a letter of intent to play with McGill next season. With her years of experience playing in the intense national development program, she still says she was “impressed by [the Martlets] team chemistry and how hard they pushed themselves at practice.”
There will be a bus from McGill’s Currie Gym leaving for the University of Montreal at 6 p.m. on March 4 for fans hoping to catch one last glimpse of the team before Nationals. Seats can be reserved on the Red Thunder website: ssmu.mcgill.ca/redthunder (not accessible on Firefox).
Full disclosure: Monika Fabian is the president of Red Thunder.
Additional reporting by Sam Hunter.