The 2013-14 McGill Martlet hockey program could be defined by a number of factors: Head Coach Peter Smith’s excellent coaching; the team’s continued dominance in the RSEQ; the Martlets’ 43-game RSEQ winning streak that lasted up to this year; Katia Clement-Heydra being awarded the CIS Player-of-the-Year; or the pure aesthetic quality of hockey on display night in and night out.
However, on March 16, 2014, McGill achieved its crowning achievement of the season: the 2013-2014 CIS National Championship at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, NB. The 4-3 victory came only after two overtimes against the Montreal Carabins—the same team that defeated McGill the weekend before for the RSEQ title.
McGill started the game as the more disciplined team over the first two and a half periods. Presented with the opportunity, the Martlets seized their advantage and netted two power play goals. Sophomore forward Gabrielle Davidson continued her excellent play with the first two goals of the game, while defenceman Michelle Daigneault slotted home the third to give McGill a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes left in the third period. The Martlets maintained a strong cycle and moved the puck around with ease, accruing 33 shots to Montreal’s 24. However, in the second half of the third frame, Montreal picked up the pace with a more physical style of play to stun McGill with two goals in five minutes.
The first overtime period did not prove decisive, with an initial Montreal surge tempered by an airtight McGill defence. The Martlets moved quickly to start the additional frame, with Clement-Heydra winning the faceoff. Only 23 seconds into the second overtime, Davidson assisted defenceman Brittney Fouracres for the winning goal to clinch McGill’s fourth CIS title.
The Martlets displayed a hunger throughout the weekend, but seemed to sacrifice tempo for structure as they took on the Wilfred Laurier University (WLU) Hawks on Thursday in the first round robin match of the tournament. McGill set up from the blue line far more often than usual and passed the puck with ease, leaving WLU skating haplessly at times. Davidson—who netted nine goals over the course of the tournament—put away two markers in the first period of the game en route to a 4-1 Martlet victory.
The Martlets dealt with Moncton in a far more clinical fashion on Saturday to clinch their spot in the final. After starting a goal down the first, McGill overwhelmed Moncton’s defence by scoring four goals in a frenetic eight-minute run. The Martlets finished the game with characteristic dominance, winning the match 8-2.
Smith is currently the women’s hockey coach with the most wins in McGill history, with four gold medals, two silvers, and five bronze in 11 appearances at Nationals. The precedent has been set. Anything short of a podium finish at the National Championships has become a disappointment. However, with Olympic gold-medalist and former CIS Player-of-the-Year Melodie Daoust slated to return to the roster and only three fifth-year seniors, the Martlets will be reloading for another championship run next season.