The McGill Martlets and losing are rarely associated with one another. In his 14 years at the helm, Head Coach Peter Smith has built a formidable dynasty. The process has been consistent throughout; hard practices result in blowouts that lead to RSEQ championships, which are the stepping stone to medals at the CIS national championships. When the Martlets (18-2) dropped a 2-1 nail-biter to the Montreal Carabins (17-3) on Saturday in McConnell Arena, the aura of invincibility that surrounds the McGill Martlet ice hockey program was ever so slightly deflated.
The Carabins have proven to be a pesky opponent for the Martlets, flipping the script on McGill with wins in their two most recent matchups. In addition, Montreal knocked McGill out of the RSEQ playoffs last season in shocking fashion. The bitterness between the two squads was on full display for the 179 fans in attendance Saturday evening. Bodies were flying at each other in the physical affair; interference calls and body-checking minors combined for six of the 10 penalties handed out. According to Smith, the physical nature of the affair was fostered by the officiating.
“It was a result of the way that the referee was calling the game,” Smith said. “Our team tries to adjust [to] the way the ref is playing. I thought he let a lot of the physical play go, and both teams played within the guidelines that he set.”
Consequently, there were fewer power play opportunities for McGill to capitalize on. Still, the Martlets managed to outshoot their opponents 33-15. Goaltender Andrea Weckman, a fifth-year senior, was outstanding when called upon, but unfortunately was saddled with the loss, the only one of her RSEQ career. Ultimately, the Carabins’ goal opportunities were superior to those of the Martlets; both shots that went past Weckman were from the slot through heavy traffic.
“I thought [Montreal] did a good job [closing] down the shot lanes,” Smith said. “I thought we could have done a better job at finding seams and getting pucks on net.”
Despite the lack of scoring there were a few bright spots offensively for the Martlets. Leslie Oles, a senior winger and alternate captain, showed a sense of urgency on offence, putting her body on the line time and time again to ensure that her team maintained possession of the puck. Katia Clement-Heydra, a senior centre and alternate captain, was a wizard with the puck and almost had a chance to cut the lead when she danced past two flat-footed defencemen before being denied by Carabins’ goalie Elodie Rousseau-Sirois. The two stalwarts’ persistence paid off with 10 seconds to go in the game when Oles assisted on Clement-Heydra’s goal.
“We just put the puck on the net and crashed the net,” Clement-Heydra said. “We were just so happy. It felt good to finally get a goal because we were trying all night and it wasn’t going our way.”
With the regular season over, the Martlets’ sole focus moves to the semifinal of the RSEQ playoffs. The team will face the Concordia Stingers in a best- of- three series that begins Friday, Feb. 21 at 7:00 p.m. in McConnell Arena, a task for which the squad will undoubtedly be prepared.
“We have to keep going like we finished today—our last eight minutes of the game were amazing,” Clement-Heydra said. “We just need to go hard during practice, keep working on the good habits and details, and it should go our way.”