Last year saw the Redmen and the Martlet swimming teams each advance through their respective RSEQ conferences on the way to joint eighth-place finishes at the CIS National Championship in Calgary. Despite some key losses due to graduation, both teams are looking to start the season strong and hope to improve on last season’s results.
The Martlets enter the 2012-2013 campaign with a strong mixture of youth and experience on their roster. They will be relying on a strong sophomore performance from mid-distance swimmer Katie Caldwell, who took the RSEQ by storm last year and received nods for both Rookie-of-the-Year and Swimmer-of-the-Year. Caldwell also proved she could compete on a national level as she brought back a silver and a bronze in the 200m and 400m individual medley events respectively.
The team got off to a good start at its first meet, placing second overall thanks to strong showings from Caldwell, veteran Rayven Snodgrass, and newcomer Fanny Gervais-Cartier. Although the Montreal Carabins are the favourites to dominate the RSEQ, expect to see the Martlets at the CIS Championships once again.
On the men’s side, the outlook is not quite as bright, as the team lost its top swimmer and last year’s Male Athlete-of-the-Year, Steven Bielby, to graduation. The team will seek to fill this void with the continued development of returnees such as senior Pierre-Alexandre Renaud and junior Marc-André Benoit, as well as a healthy class of rookies.
The Redmen took a relatively distant third place in their first event, with the Carabins dominating on the men’s side of things as well. However, bright spots included a gold for Renaud in the 400m freestyle, and success from the McGill relay teams. With seemingly little competition below the top three RSEQ spots, McGill can use the season to adjust to the loss of Bielby, and should have no problems reaching Nationals once again.
It was just two years ago that the McGill Redmen hoisted the University Cup as national champions. The program was at its peak; Head Coach Kelly Nobes had built a model university hockey club in terms of recruiting and player development.
However, fortunes changed last season in what was certainly a transition year. The Redmen lost to Nipissing in the OUA East Quarter-final and failed to defend their championship. Surprising or not, the result was disappointing. Following the tough season, this young roster is poised to bounce back and regain some of its past national prominence.
In order to reach that high level once more, McGill needs a huge year from new starting goaltender Andrew Flemming, who finally takes over behind the crease after longstanding Redmen netminder Hubert Morin graduated last spring. Flemming virtually matched Morin statistically last year as a backup, posting a 2.71 GAA in 19 games played. This was a fine effort, but he will likely need to steal a few games himself this season if the Redmen hope to climb to the top of the OUA East.
The defence returns some familiar faces, most notably senior captain Ryan McKiernan. He and junior Hugo Laporte will help clear traffic out in front of Flemming. The rest of the defence corps is marked with relative inexperience. Freshman Samuel Carrier will be relied on from the beginning of the year, while sophomore Jean-Philippe Mathieu will need to build on his short rookie campaign.
Up front, the Redmen are deep and should receive scoring from multiple lines. Sophomores Patrick Delisle-Houde and Mathieu Pompei return after impressive debut seasons. The key, however, lies in the hands of three other second-year forwards David Rose, Jonathan Brunelle, and Max Le Sieur. If they show improvement and stabilize the roster with secondary scoring, opponents will struggle to handle the Redmen attack.
Coach Nobes returns for his fourth season behind the McGill bench. He will be instrumental in incorporating all his players and developing his young core.
A lot needs to fall in place for the Redmen, but the talent is there to make some serious noise. That transition year is long over; it is time for McGill to become a powerhouse once more.