The McGill women’s hockey team continued its domination of CIS competition last week, finishing off the Montreal Carabins on the road after winning the series opener at home on Wednesday. With Friday’s series-clincher, the Martlets celebrated their 84th straight win in CIS play, as well as their fifth consecutive conference championship. But while the outcome of Friday’s game was obvious from the opening faceoff, the Martlets were forced to work for their points on Wednesday night, as they played their last home game of the year, winning 5-2 at McConnell Arena.
Senior Rebecca Martindale led the way for McGill, netting two markers and tallying a helper on forward Jordanna Peroff’s goal midway through the first period. Despite McGill’s lofty position as the top-ranked team going into Nationals, Head Coach Amey Doyle stressed the importance of keeping her team levelheaded.
“We have to focus on one game at a time,” she said. “We don’t want to get into any bad habits. We want to make sure we’re rolling and paying attention to detail.”
League MVP Cathy Chartrand, who led all Quebec defencemen in points scored, opened the scoring at 12:18 on the power play. Thirty seconds later, Peroff scored to increase the team’s lead to 2-0, thanks to Martindale’s assist. Peroff would return the favour later in the period after a boarding call against the Carabins’ Marie-Andree Leclerc-Auger put the Martlets on the power play. Montreal’s Vicky Denis finally got her team on the board with 17 seconds left in the period.
After being outshot 21-6, the Carabins came out much stronger in the second frame, dominating the Martlets for the first 10 minutes of the period.
“There was a little bit of a lull,” said Doyle. “We lacked a bit of that competitiveness. I thought it was important that we took that competitiveness back.”
The game’s shift back into McGill’s favor was marked by an unassisted goal by freshman forward Chelsey Saunders midway through the period. The goal appeared to re-energize the Martlets while simultaneously taking the wind out of the Carabins’ sails. Despite their impressive start, Montreal failed to register a goal during the period.
The Martlets began to roll in the final period, and played a strong defensive game in order to maintain their lead. Martindale ended any hope of a Montreal miracle at 4:42 in the third, again with the help of Peroff. The only other goal in the game would come from Montreal, when the puck took a funny bounce and flew past Martlet goaltender Taylor Salisbury’s shoulder.
A major part of McGill’s defensive success was their gritty style of play, as players consistently sacrificed their bodies in order to block shots and keep the puck in the offensive zone, something the Carabins weren’t quite as willing to do.
“That’s something that we do really well,” said Doyle. “As long as we get the job done, get the pucks in the net, we’re not looking for the pretty goals. It’s not a huge part of our game, but it is an important one.”
The Martlets rode their airtight defence all the way to a 3-0 shutout to capture the Quebec championship on the road two days later. Again, the Martlets dominated Montreal, registering almost double the amount of shots on goal. Forward Amy Soberano’s goal in the first period held up as the game-winner, and fellow forward Anne-Sophie Betez scored twice in the third to put the game out of reach. Salisbury was perfect in the net, stopping all 21 shots the Carabins threw at her.
Now, Doyle and her team will turn their attention to a much larger goal: a third straight national championship banner. For the third game in a row, McGill will face the Carabins, who find themselves at Nationals in the first year of their existence as a team. Compeition tips off at 4 p.m. on Thursday, and the entire tournament will be webcast live by SSN Canada.